MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Some people are wondering why the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency euthanized a family of four bears in Gatlinburg this week after they were spotted several times rummaging for human food and garbage.
Bears have been spotted all over climbing buildings, around cabins, even in downtown settings. Wildlife officials say they are out because they are hungry.
“We’ve had people ran away from their vehicles. We’ve had people chased into their vehicles, people chased inside cabins, so the bears can get in there and forage around inside the vehicles,” said TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron.
They are also growing in population. TWRA estimates there are about 6,000 bears in Tennessee, making relocating those bears a challenge.
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“We’ve got so many bears that there’s no place to take them anymore. They’ve outgrown the park. They’ve outgrown the national forests,” said Cameron.
A family of bears in Gatlinburg was euthanized this week by TWRA after showing some of those behaviors, but a lot of people are wondering why TWRA chose to take that course of action.
“We have tried to tranquilize the bear in the past. For whatever reason we have been unable to do so. We tried to trap her a couple years ago. She would not go into a trap. She was a very savvy bear,” said Cameron.
TWRA says they have killed six bears this year which is more than usual. They say those bears were getting too used to surviving on human food.
“It’s the responsibility of the business owners, of the cabins owners, of the cities, of the residents, of all of us to keep these bears wild because if we don’t, this is what’s going to happen to them,” said Cameron.
Their plan is to educate people who have bear encounters on how to prevent them from coming back. They say it is only when bears habitually repeat aggressive behavior that they go to this extreme.
“I don’t want to see them eating my garbage or people food, and I don’t want to see them ultimately be killed because of it,” said Cameron.
TWRA says there was one other cub with this group that was not captured or euthanized. They say they will not be tracking that bear unless it continues the tendencies its mother was teaching it.