PHOTOS: Woman Has Shockingly Close Encounter With Black Bear in Gatlinburg

by Emily Morgan

The Great Smoky Mountains are arguably synonymous with black bear sightings. For those that don’t know, thousands of black bears call the Great Smoky Mountains home. With this comes inevitable human-bear interactions we see and read about in the news.

Over the past weekend, several people had bear run-ins with the creatures in the East Tennesee mountains. For instance, one woman considers herself lucky after having a close encounter with a bear.

According to WBIR, Cindy Kitts was sitting in her car outside the national park in Gatlinburg when she suddenly saw a bear climb onto her open passenger side window.

However, Kitts was prepared. Since she was born and raised in the area, she knew exactly how to respond. So instead of screaming and startling the bear, Kitts remained calm and quiet while the bear sniffed around. Luckily, she had no food in her car, and the bear later went on its merry way after she snapped some pics.

“Holy toledo!! I’m in Gatlinburg at the Parkside Grill,” she began her post on Facebook. “The girls wanted to get a bite to eat while they celebrate their 8 year wedding anniversary. I didn’t go in so I’m parked in the back. No food in the car. Looked up and here came a young bear down the hillside. My windows are down. Next thing I know…it hops up to look in the car on the passenger side! I didn’t panic.…but had to snap a couple of pics! It didn’t stay…just peeked in then went back up the hillside. I was very quiet and calm. Raised in the Smokies so knew it wouldn’t stay!”

Black bears: expert car burglars

If you’re planning a trip to the Smokies, it’s crucial to be bear aware. Bears in the Smokies have learned that cars make for great foraging spots for treats that people leave inside.

In addition, these bears have learned to check if people locked their doors and know how to open them, even without thumbs. With this, it’s vital to ensure you always lock your car doors when visiting the Smokies and do not leave any food inside.

If not, these omnivores can break inside and wreak havoc on the car’s interior or themselves.

In a similar incident, onlookers saw a fellow black bear wandering around the area on Sunday. Bystander Sheena Lindsey kept her distance but took a few photos of it as it walked around.

One of the many misunderstandings about the animal is that they’re friendly. While they may look cute and cuddly, they’re wild animals who won’t think twice about taking someone out if they feel threatened.

According to bear experts, some careless people have even attempted to pet the bears, which is never a good idea. The best practice around a meandering bear is to keep your distance.

“I think as long as people just remember that these are wild animals and potentially dangerous animals, that they’ll do a lot better around them, and bears have a tendency to do really well around human habitation,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care conservation and education zoo in Knoxville, Tennessee.