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Cades Cove bear sighting goes viral on Facebook

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A video showing a likely mama bear and cubs crossing the road in the Great Smoky Mountains caught the attention of millions of viewers on Facebook this week. 

Rebecca Connell posted the video, taken in Cades Cove, on Thursday afternoon. By Friday evening, it had been viewed more than 15 million times. 

Black bears are regularly spotted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and park officials have said spring and summer are the most likely time to see them. 

Connell’s video captures an adult black bear who waits at the side of the road for a pack of cubs to catch up behind it. 

The bear sniffs them, and then leads the cubs across the road, the youngsters gamboling along behind her to the safety of the trees.

Filmed from inside a vehicle, a voice on Connell’s video can be heard encouraging the cubs to catch up, and commenting on the undeniable cuteness of the baby bears. 

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A bear paid a visit to the Chalet Village rental office on Wednesday, May 2, and even made his way into an employee’s car.
Submitted by Cindy Dale Jenkins, Knoxville

What to do if you see a bear

Bears are most active during early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer. If you do happen to see one, here’s what park service officials say to do to keep yourself and the bear safe.

Remain watchful:

  • Do not approach it;
  • Do not allow the bear to approach you;
  • Do not feed it.

A bear might react aggressively if you are too close to its habitat, according to the park service. It may run toward you, make loud noises or swat at the ground in an attempt to demand more space. If this happens, slowly back away while watching the bear.

If you see a bear outside of its natural habitat, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has similar suggestions.

Taking out the trash properly

Like humans, bears are omnivores. Berries and nuts make up approximately 85% of their diet, but they are also tempted by the smells of human food and garbage in picnic areas, campgrounds and along trails, according to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park website. 

Bears can live 12-15 years or more. However, bears which have had access to human foods and garbage have a life expectancy of only half that time, according to the the park service.

Visitors in the Smokies and surrounding areas shouldn’t feed bears or allow them to access their trash for several reasons:

  • It changes the bear’s behavior and causes the animal to lose its instinctive fear of people;
  • Bears that obtain human food and garbage damage property and injure people; 
  • Studies have shown that bears that lose their fear of people by obtaining human food and garbage never live as long as bears that feed on natural foods and are shy and afraid of people.

Because of this, those visiting the park could face citations from park rangers for littering, feeding bears and for improper food storage. Extreme cases could result in fines of up to $5,000 and jail sentences lasting up to six months, according to the park website.

To avoid improper food disposal, bear-proof dumpsters or trash cans can be found in all campgrounds and picnic areas in the Smokies. 

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The city of Gatlinburg also requires animal-resistant garbage containers in various parts of the city and outside of all restaurants, according to their website. 

How to protect bears

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TWRA releases a rehabilitated bear cub back into the wild in the Cherokee National Forest.
Video courtesy of TWRA

Ultimately, people’s behavior both in the park and outside the surrounding area has the biggest impact on bear safety. Here are some simple ways to help protect bear populations in the Smokies.

  • Dispose of all garbage or food scraps in bear-proof garbage containers or take it with you;
  • Do not feed wildlife. Feeding a bear guarantees its demise;
  • Do not approach within 50 yards or any distance that disturbs a bear;
  • Do not allow bears to approach you;
  • Use the food storage cables to store your food and garbage when camping in the back country.

If you see another visitor breaking these rules, or encounter a bear in a picnic area or campground, on a trail or in any other developed area, please call (865) 436-1230 or stop at a visitor center to report it.

Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Rebecca Wright contributed to this report. Reach reporter Mariah Timms at mtimms@tennessean.com or 615-259-8344 and on Twitter @MariahTimms

Read or Share this story: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/04/19/great-smoky-mountain-national-park-cades-cove-bear-sighting-cubs/3525006002/





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