GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s now spring in the Great Smoky Mountains, which means bears are coming out of their wintering dens seeking food. Two of them had some rare moments captured on video in the last week.
While on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Todd Trebony witnessed a black bear hop in and make himself at home in their hot tub.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), a healthy male Tennessee black bear can be between 4-7 feet long and weigh as much as 500 pounds.
Philip Talbot also recorded a rare bear sight while he was visiting the Smokies. He and a friend happened upon the scene and knew they were seeing something worth stopping both lanes of traffic: A bear on the hunt with its prey.
“It was really a right place, right time,” Talbot said. “We spent the day in Cades Cove looking for wildlife. We were on our way back to our cabin in Gatlinburg and were the first ones to drive up on it.”
The black bear was in the process of killing a hog and dragging it up the embankment near the road. The hog wasn’t going down so easily, and both animals appeared tired.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic content.
“We originally thought it was a bear and cub until we got right up on them,” Talbot said. “That’s when the bear attacked and we started videoing. Both lanes were stopped. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing! I’m an avid hunter, and it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!”
TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron offered these reminders for visitors to East Tennessee regarding black bears:
While black bears are omnivorous, about 90% of their diet consists of vegetation and they consume very little meat. However, having recently emerged from their winter dens, they are looking for food amongst many sources and will seize the opportunity to consume young, sick or injured animals. It’s from now until the major spring green up that bears will be covering large territories in search of available food.
We want to remind residents and visitors to be vigilant and not allow bears to have access to human foods including garbage containers, pet foods, birdfeeders, compost piles, or by offering them handouts. Be BearWise!MATT CAMERON, SPOKESMAN, TENNESSEE WILDLIFE RESOURCES AGENCY
Here are some other reminders from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency about bears:
- While black bears are usually tolerant of humans, they should always be treated as wild animals, whether in residential or backcountry areas.
- Black bears are rarely aggressive towards people and typically go out of their way to avoid contact, however as human development continues and bear numbers increase, occasional interactions will be unavoidable.
- Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behaviors can be unpredictable.
- Black bears are very curious animals and this should not be confused with aggression.
- Startled bears will often confront intruders by turning sideways to appear larger, make woofing and teeth clacking sounds, salivate, lay their ears back and slap the ground with their paws. These are warnings for you to leave the area.
- Bears will often stand on their hind legs to get a better view or a better sense of hearing and smell.
- Never feed or approach bears.
The Southeast region is home to some 72,000 black bears, according to BearWise. For more information about black bears, you can also visit the “BearWise” program page.