Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on May 22, 2018
This has been a big topic in the news around here lately. Saying, “Don't feed the bears” has almost become a cliché in our culture, but it's based in fact, and the consequences of giving human food to wild bears can be tragic. Just this past week, a mother bear and two of her yearling cubs had to be euthanized by national park officials because park visitors encroached on the animals' territory and fed them. It's really a shame when humans disobey the rules, and the bears are the ones that have to pay for it.
What's the big deal, you may be wondering? What's the harm in feeding the bears? A bear's natural diet is insects, nuts and berries, but they are attracted by the smell of human foods like hot dogs, apple cores, chips and other foods. Even park guests who don't willfully feed bears can do harm by leaving their campsite and picnic food stores openly available to the animals.
According to the national park website, “Feeding bears or allowing them access to human food and garbage causes a number of problems:
• It changes the bears' behavior and causes them to lose their instinctive fear of humans. Over time, these bears may begin approaching people in search of food and may become more unpredictable and dangerous.
• Bears that obtain human food and garbage damage property and injure people. These bears pose a risk to public safety. They can also teach other bears this dangerous behavior. Often, they must be euthanized.
• 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. Many are hit by cars and become easy targets for poachers.”
As a result, it's illegal to willfully come within 50 yards of a bear or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear. Violators are subject to fines and arrest. Yet this past week, multiple amateur videos showed throngs of visitors gathered in close proximity to a mother bear and giving her food, actions that ultimately led to the mother and cubs being put down.
The moral here is that if you see a bear in the wild, be respectful. If you want to observe quietly from a safe distance, fine. But please do not approach the bear or disturb it or give it food. You're only contributing to its demise.
If you see a bear exhibiting aggressive behavior like approaching you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground, he or she is demanding more space. The best thing you can do is oblige and give the animal that space. Back slowly away, maintaining eye contact, and the bear will probably do the same.
Here at Smoky Mountain Ziplines, we care deeply about our natural habitat. Our Smoky Mountain zip line adventure is located in the foothills of the mountains, so preserving the wildlife that inhabits our region is a priority to us. Most visitors probably wish no harm on these animals, but we hope that by spreading this message and educating the public about the pitfalls of bear interaction, we can help save the lives of these native animals and make the national park and surrounding region a place where man and bear can peacefully coexist.