TWRA: Rehabilitation Was Never an Option for Cubs

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - TWRA now says they're fairly certain they've caught and euthanized the right bears that attacked a woman in Gatlinburg this weekend.

TWRA says measurements of the bite marks did match up, and based on groups of bear family observations; they were able to narrow down the female bear with three cubs.

The whole bear incident is generating heated response from viewers like you.

Here are some of the comments from our online poll.

Connie Clark of Harriman writes, "the bears were there before the people. Why couldn't you just tranquilize the bears and take them to the mountains farther up."

And a viewer who didn't leave his or her name, writes, "I don't think it's right for you to question the TWRA on euthanizing the bears. They did it for public safety. They wouldn't have done it if it wasn't necessary."

So why then were the cubs put down in the first place?

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spoke with TWRA about their decision to put down the cubs.

They say many folks are not happy with what they did, but they had no choice.

The TWRA says the adult bear attacked a 73-year old woman Saturday, knocking her down and biting her arm and leg as she was returning from a walk with her dog.

But even though the three cubs never came in contact with the woman, Appalachian Bear Rescue says TWRA stopped them from hurting someone else in the future.

"The cubs were euthanized because this female bear and her cubs, we consider those nuisance bears," says David Brandenburg, a TWRA Wildlife Biologist.

Meaning the bears weren't afraid of people.

"When we have an incident that involves a bear actually physically injuring a human, our protocol is to capture the offending animal and destroy that animal," Brandenburg says.

But the TWRA says the three cubs didn't injure anyone. So why then were they trapped and killed?

"Once these bears get around those people and start getting these bad habits from their mother, you can't change that," Brandenburg says. "We've got scientific research that shows that."

That's why TWRA's wildlife biologist David Brandenburg says they didn't even consider taking the cubs to the Appalachian Bear Rescue.

"If we take those cubs and put them in a rehab center and later on release them and those cubs, which are now growing to adult bears, if they injure another person, then we're the ones at fault," Brandenburg says.

"These bears had been under observation for some time," Appalachian Bear Rescue President Jack Burgin says unfortunately there was nothing they could do to help these three cubs. "They were beyond hope. The reason they were beyond hope was because of the garbage these bears were feeding on."

Because of that, Burgin says the cubs could've eventually ended up hurting someone in the future, someone most-likely near open garbage or food.

"Until people understand that the garbage is going to cause bears to die, this will continue to happen, unfortunately," Burgin says.

TWRA says they still have several other traps set out around trash collection sites in the Smokies.

If you're caught with open trash out, TWRA says it's a Class C Misdemeanor with a $50 fine plus court costs.

They say people leaving trash and food out is the main reason these bears become aggressive and lose their fear of humans.


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