Great Smokies rangers levy fines against visitor feeding Cades Cove bear peanut butter

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187571156 4077106019013364 4453871448600228240 nA black bear makes its way through Cades Cove in this National Park Service photograph. This is emblematic of Smoky Mountain bears on the move in the spring; the park service recently took action against a visitor who fed a bear peanut butter in the area. The bear in question had been feeding on walnuts for several weeks prior to the visitors’ introduction of human food, attractions to which can doom black bears because they are more prone to exhibit dangerous behavior toward people and become habituated, and even dependent, on their presence.

Smokies visitor feeding bear peanut butter in Cades Cove was reportedly caught on camera. That aided park rangers’ search for the perp.

A visitor to Cades Cove thought it would be wise to feed peanut butter to a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and she got a ticket as a result. The person who received the citation, according to a news release from the park, was identified via video taken by another park visitor.

A National Park Service spokeswoman followed up with Hellbender Press the morning of June 8 in response to some questions. Rangers issued the citation to a 27-year-old woman, one of three adults in the vehicle. If the woman simply pays the fine and doesn't contest it in court, she will pay a $100 fine, plus a $30 fee

"Per Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR), violation of a NPS regulation constitutes a Class B federal misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 or by imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both," according to park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.
 

Anyhoo, for Pete’s sake, don’t feed the bears. They’ve got enough problems without us getting involved.

“Managing wild bears in a park that receives more than 12 million visitors is an extreme challenge and we must have the public’s help,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “It is critical that bears never be fed or approached — for their protection and for human safety.”

The full National Park Service release from Great Smoky Mountains National Park follows:

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers issued a citation to visitors responsible for feeding a bear peanut butter in Cades Cove. Rangers learned about the incident after witnesses provided video documentation. Following an investigation, the visitors confessed and were issued a citation. 

“Prior to the incident, the 100-pound male bear had been feeding on walnuts for several weeks along the Cades Cove Loop Road. The bear started to exhibit food-conditioned behavior leading wildlife biologists to suspect the bear had been fed. Biologists captured the bear, tranquilized it, and marked it with an ear tag before releasing it on site in the same general area. Through aversive conditioning techniques such as this, rangers discourage bears from frequenting parking areas, campgrounds, and picnic areas where they may be tempted to approach vehicles in search of food. This includes scaring bears from the roadside using loud sounds or discharging paint balls.

“Park officials remind visitors about precautions they should take while observing bears to keep themselves and bears safe. Until the summer berries ripen, natural foods are scarce. Visitors should observe bears from a distance of at least 50 yards and allow them to forage undisturbed. Bears should never be fed. While camping or picnicking in the park, visitors must properly store food and secure garbage. Coolers should always be properly stored in the trunk of a vehicle when not in use. All food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people.  

“Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country including hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly following food storage regulations, and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times. Feeding, touching, disturbing, or willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park. 

“If approached by a bear, park officials recommend slowly backing away to put distance between yourself and the animal, creating space for it to pass. If the bear continues to approach, you should not run. Hikers should make themselves look large, stand their ground as a group, and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.  

“For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident in the park, please call 865-436-1230. 

“For more information about how to be BearWise, please visit www.bearwise.org. Local residents are reminded to keep residential garbage secured and to remove any other attractants such as bird feeders and pet foods from their yards. To report a bear incident outside of the park, please call Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.”

This story has been updated with information supplied by the National Park Service in response to questions about the case from Hellbender Press.

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