Bear attacks nationwide prompt warning in the Smoky Mountains

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Recent black bear attacks in Colorado and Alaska have prompted some concern about bears in the Smoky Mountains.

The incident in Colorado involved a bear attacking a camp staffer while he was sleeping.

Bill Stiver, supervisory wildlife biologist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said similar attacks have happened in East Tennessee. He said this latest incident in Colorado should be a reminder to anyone visiting the mountains that attacks are rare, but they do happen.

“You never want to hear about that, but unfortunately bears are predator and sometimes they look a people,” said Stiver.

Stiver said since 2000 there have been five reported bear attacks in the region, one of which was a fatality. Stiver said that person was on a day hike.

“We have a lot bears and a lot people, and that’s a recipe for a lot more bear interactions,” said Stiver.

If you see a bear, Stiver said do not approach it and give the bear space. Hiking in groups is always a good idea in parties of three or four.

“If you see a bear, give it its space. If it keeps following make noise, get together as a group and try and scare it,” said Stiver.

Stiver said the population has been steady in the Smoky Mountains and there’s been no recent attacks, but visitors should be aware of their surroundings

“We’ve had similar incidents here, and I think sometimes people forget black bears are large carnivores,” said Stiver.

He recommends if you are camping, make sure you store any food or trash in your vehicles. He adds you will be safer sleeping in a tent rather than out under the stars.