Editorial: Bear necessities of safety

Sep. 11, 2013 @ 11:09 PM

As the young bear ran down the Parkway in Gatlinburg, two things were quickly obvious.

No. 1: The bear, confused and looking for an escape, was frightened. 

No. 2: Many of the people caught on the recording with the bear were oblivious.

The video posted on Facebook that quickly caught the attention on news outlets across Tennessee showed a black bear running down the strip in Gatlinburg, crossing the street near a crosswalk and running back up the street before escaping down a side alleyway. 

All the while people — tourists most likely — were excitedly following the bear, snapping away with their cell phone cameras and often getting uncomfortably close to the wild animal.

It would have only been natural for a wild bear, already scared out of its mind by the throng of people, cars and flashing lights of downtown Gatlinburg, to have defended itself when approached.

Had that happened, things would have gone completely differently for both the bear and burgeoning photographers.

Sometimes in the Smoky Mountains our daily life collides with the wild. 

Often, whether it’s the thrill of actually seeing a wild creature or the odd juxtaposition of nature and our daily lives, people take for granted the inherent danger of the situation.

“Today Tennessee’s wildlife, forest, and park service agencies confront new and difficult challenges in managing bear-human conflicts,” the Tennessee Wildlife Recreation Association says on its website. “As human and bear populations increase, and more people move near public lands, bear-human interactions has undoubtedly increased creating potentially dangerous situations for the public and for bears.”

Scott Reasor, a spokesman for the agency who saw the video, was more to the point.

“We advise people when they see a bear, even when it is in town like that, to stand back and let it have its breathing room. It’s more than likely looking for an exit like that one was.”

Cameras are not shields and bears — even though in a tourist area — are not there for entertainment.