Garbage Inviting Bears To Town

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - More proof that bears are going anywhere they can to find food.

The TWRA trapped a big one today, near where a woman was attacked and four bears euthanized this weekend.

Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb was the only reporter there.

Thursday's bear was a lot bigger than Wednesday's cub in the tree near Maryville.

The food that these bears were looking for probably is in your trash cans right now.

Gatlinburg requires your trash cans be secured, and they pay a TWRA officer to enforce it.

But one resident says even city's dumpsters aren't bear proof.

Another bear is captured during forging season off Ski Mountain. So how much is garbage leading bears to the area?

"It's the number one factor above everything else. These bears are visiting residential areas such as Gatlinburg because of garbage," says David Brandenburg, a TWRA Wildlife Biologist.

"As far as garbage, I mean you can just drive through the mountains and see that garbage is a big problem up here," And residents like Ann McCullough who live off Ski Mountain Road agree. She says she makes sure her garbage stays away from bears but says many in the area do not. "A lot of rental cabins that are on the rental program, they don't have bear proof containers. Many of them have the wooden containers which bears can just claw right through."

Feeding bears or keeping garbage not in bear proof containers is a violation of Gatlinburg ordinances.

"There are laws but they are not enforced. I walk a four mile loop with my dogs everyday and you can just see the garbage," McCullough says.

"We've written this year nearly one hundred warnings," Brandenburg says.

But Brandenburg says they've only issued one citation this year. "You know, our officers actually have to observe the tourist like feeding a bear. Very, very difficult to do."

But some feel enforcement could make a difference in keeping nuisance bears away.

"It's very upsetting because if they would start fining some of these people or the rental companies maybe it would change and we wouldn't have such a problem with our bears and we could coexist with them," McCullough says.

The way the law is set up, a warning must be issued and the offender given time to fix the problem before a citation can be issued.

The fine, fifty dollars.

By the way, that bear caught Thursday weighed about 350 to 400 pounds.

It was tranquilized, and released into the wild in Monroe County.


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