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Old 08-13-2008, 05:55 PM
rgp759 rgp759 is offline
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Default Black Bears

If the bear was provoked, there is no wonder it "attacked", it was just doing what bears do. Too many people obviously do not have any idea what a black bear can do, even a small one.

Black bears are predators, and in the GSMNP, they are the top of the food chain. Many people simply do not understand the mentality and the insticts of the bears. For too long, the black bear has been portrayed as a "cuddly" animal, when nothing is further from the truth. Black bears can be dangerous animals. Actually, when comparing a black bear's potential to attack versus the grizzly's, I'll go up against the grizzly anytime. The grizzly bear usually only attacks when it is provoked or is protecting its cubs, food or territory. While the black bear also displays these habits, there is one major difference in the two animals; the grizzly attack is almost always defensive, while if a black bear attacks, it has decided that you are food. One of the ways to "combat" a grizzly attack is to drop and curl up into a fetal position, and try not to make a sound. Generally, if the bear gets no response, it will quit and go off on its own business. A black bear, on the other hand, will continue to attack and/or maul, as it is going to EAT you.

When you see a black bear in the wild, obviously, you want to try to avoid provoking or startling the animal. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are confronted, there are a few simple things to do to protect yourself.
  1. Do NOT turn and run. This action provokes the "prey" response in the bear, and it will chase you. Instead, slowly and steadily back away from the bear.
  2. As you are backing away, do NOT make eye contact. Eye contact is a threatening action to the bear. Watch it, and at the same time, look around for a large stick to pick up as a defensive weapon. Bang the stick against trees, rocks or whatever, but not the ground. Hitting it against the ground simulates an aggressive bear behavior.
  3. Make noise...yell, scream or whatever. The animal will not like the noise, and may retreat.
  4. If you have a jacket or a backpack on, take it off and toss it off to the side, yet towards the bear, like on a 45 angle. The animal will most likely go after the offering, giving you more time to back away to a safe distance. I know it may be a sacrilege, but if you have a fish in your vest, that may be the best thing to toss off to the side of the bear.
Also, just as another note, pepper spray, while fairly effective as a deterrent on a grizzly bear, is not nearly as effective on a black bear. They just react differently to the stuff.

Overall, stay alert to your surroundings, and respect that you are invading the bear's home.

Bob
  #12  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sammcdonald View Post
the bear in question was weighed at UT...86 pounds.
the same day in the visitor center a "guest" said he had gotten to with 5 feet of a bear in roaring fork....i advised him of park regs and he said he didn't care...he was gonna continue to get close to bears since thats why he came to the park....what an idiot.
Sam,
I too have had similar experiences with people who have no sense. However, I have lived in Knoxville all my life and made hundreds of trips to the Smokies fishing, camping, etc and have never seen a bear. Too many people who visit the Smokies just don't understand that they are out in nature and a whole new set of rules apply. Having a son, I feel for the boy, but it appears that a stupid decision was made by the father if he knew the bear was there and didn't take the correct action. I am just waiting for one of these idiots to try bring a lawsuit against the NPS for not protecting them from these bears.

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  #13  
Old 08-13-2008, 11:21 PM
ZachMatthews ZachMatthews is offline
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Guys -

I had a friend finishing up at UT Vet School during the last bear attack - the bear she helped autopsy wasn't even the bear involved in the attack, they determined.

This always makes me so angry and sad. That 86 pound bear wasn't much bigger than my Labrador. The kid had just been chowing down on a bucket of fried chicken and supposedly had it on his shirt. Like Trout Assassin, I am completely skeptical that you could just come upon a bear like that kid described. Where on Road Prong trail could you suddenly just pop up in arm's reach of a bear? You'd have to climb one of the rockfalls, which this kid wasn't doing.

My alternate scenario goes something like this: Jr. sees a bear, probably wings a stick or a rock at it to see if it will roar. The bear stops and rears up, so Jr. moseys over to "pet" it while Dad watches. The bear, having been confronted by a belligerent child about its own size, and being a young, inexperienced bear, does all it knows to do and scratches the kid less than most dogs could do in two bites. The pictures of the kid are on the net now. With all due respect, I have personally been mauled much worse by a dog when I was about the kid's age.

In consequence, the bear is killed, I guess. How did they get it to UT to weigh? I don't think they tranquilized it.

Bill Bryson calls these people "tuorons." It isn't a nice term but it's accurate, and the bears have to pay the price. I'd really like to see the Park Service apply a little pointed questioning to the father rather than doing its best to reassure people that bears aren't that dangerous. This was clearly a human-created situation.

Zach
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Old 08-14-2008, 12:30 AM
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No way would I ever take my chances with a grizzly over a black bear..period.....

I think too many people think they know what to do in these situations, I have had more bear encounters this year in the park than I have had in my life combined and only once did a bear even act like it wanted to hang around....They are just as scared of us.....just don't let your kids poke and prod at wildlife like all these idiots do in cades cove and cataloochee and everything would be just fine... If it is absolutely necessary to harass wildlife go to the zoo. I know if someone came in my house smelling like food and shaking a stick at me I'd probably do my best to maul them.....people just don't understand how Wild this part of the world really is....it is not a zoo....
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:24 AM
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On a somewhat related note...last week, a 12 foot gator attacked a kid who was swimming in a pond near here. The kid was able to get away, but the gator got his arm. Afterwards, Wildlife and Fisheries was able to kill it, and they immediately slit it open and got the arm out, but doctors were unable to reattach it. It was the first gator attack I could remember around here in years, but it wasn't all that surprising; people who lived around that pond called it "Old Joe", and had probably been feeding it marshmallows and other junk for years. Every gator I've ever seen in the wild has taken off when it saw me, but once they lose that fear of man, they become very dangerous. I would imagine that it is even more so with a bear; a gator, after all, is cold-blooded, and can go for long stretches without eating, but a bear needs to eat all the time.

What can you say? People can be very stupid.
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Old 08-14-2008, 08:26 AM
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If you are on a tight stream/river, a bear can come out of no where. I would be hard pressed to spot a bear before it got to me on most of the waters in the Smokies. Lesson learned: Watch your kids like a hawk and be prepared. Again, this is why I carry a huge knife when I go to the park. It may look silly, but if attacked, I have a much better chance than if not. That assumes of course that I see the bear in time to get to my knife, which may not be the case. Up above Elkmont or Treemont, with the water rushing, it would be hard to hear a bear coming in time. Not certain about the area this kid was in.
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Old 08-14-2008, 09:27 AM
Kytroutbum Kytroutbum is offline
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A better solution is to pack a canister of bear spray and learn HOW TO USE IT. It has a range of 40 feet and suspenses in the air creating a fog. I've had the wind carry it back on me after showing my wife how to use the can, so I can attest to its potency!(:>)

Other areas may have more bear, but if they are hunted they have some fear of man. In the Smokies we could be dealing with a problem someone else started. I remember camping at Elkmont just behind the old Cabins, my neighbor kept food on his picnic table at night. We had to chase off a bear twice till his wife packed up camp.

ijsouth- I think I heard of two attacks last spring or year before. One I know was a snorkeler at a spring. I had a large gator come out of nowhere and grab a bass I was fighting near Naples. I've really gained respect for them. I read that some guys actually wade into the canals around the Tamiami to get at Snook under the bridges.
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  #18  
Old 08-14-2008, 10:14 AM
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Kytroutbum:

There seem to be a lot more "incidents" in Florida than here in Louisiana; I went to FSU, and I used to wade fish around Tallahassee...the gators there were more aggressive. Florida is such a fast-growing state, and there is a lot more human/gator interaction. When I'm fishing, I actually like to see a good sized gator - they tend to keep the snakes and gar in check.

As for bears...I've yet to see one in the park. However, a few years ago, we ended up in the Smokies after evacuating for Katrina. We were on the Foothills Parkway in the Cosby section, and we saw a momma and two cubs crossing the road...pretty neat. We try to be very careful when we park the car - we try to avoid letting any food items out of the car.
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Old 08-14-2008, 11:08 AM
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last time i came to the park i was traveling on the gravel part of the tremont road--a young black bear ran out in front of my truck--i hit the brakes --the bear went on across the road down to the stream and stopped--i drove on--about 100 yards up the road, 2 girls were walking on the side of the road--i stopped and told them a bear was not far down the road by the creek--both smiled--wanted to know if it was a big one--started digging out cameras and ran down the road--excited---i stopped to warn the girls--not to tell them what they were missing--i do not think there is any "living with bears" as long as bear ignorant city folks and country folks too, come to the park solely to make contact with a bear--they have fondled one too many black teddy bears in gatlinburg and if that's not enough,the tourons identify the park's wild bears with the admirable,humanistic,chinese made stuffed animals, not to mention,billboard bears,smiling thanking you for coming bears,neon bears,chocolate bears etc.---it,once again,proves the power of imagry in selling tourism no matter how absurd it is..
  #20  
Old 08-14-2008, 12:03 PM
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the incicent occured at rainbow falls not road prong....it was less than 300 yards from the trail head. i just came back from roaring fork and there is a ranger suv and a large park horse trailer at the rainbow trailhead (trail is open)...so maybe they got the wrong bear and are looking for another bear. or maybe they all just wanna hang out at rainbow.
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