I have seen it more times than I can count. People from the city come to the the Smoky Mountains and get a chance to see the wonderful wildlife inside the national park up close and personal. It is a true treat to see these animals roaming in the wild. However, for a variety of reasons, park rangers have to either relocate or often times kill these beautiful creatures. Sadly, for the most part it is humans’ fault that these animals have to be put down.
Don’t feed the animals! It is natural to want to get a closer look at these wild creatures. When we see a bear and her cubs, deer, elk, or any other animal, we want to get closer and get the perfect picture for our vacation photos. But if we entice them with food, something terrible happens. First, they get used to the food supply and will come to places where humans have food. This brings them straight to parking areas, picnic areas, and even into towns. This can create a major problem for the animals whose diet and behavior changes and for the humans they encounter. Secondly, it teaches the animals to lose their fear of humans. The humans are “good” people who will give them food when they come up to them. When someone else decides not to feed them or they do not have food, the animals (not surprisingly) become aggressive. The problem is the same with people who litter and do not pack out their trash. This is a simple step of the “Leave No Trace” ethics that we should all follow.
A simple Google or YouTube search on bears and wildlife incidents in the Smokies will yield dozens of results. There is a YouTube video in particular of a bear breaking into a car at Clingmans Dome for food that has gone viral that you can see HERE. The power of the bear is truly spectacular, but the video is extremely sad. Notice all the fools in the parking lot getting right next to the bear (with their children) to get a picture of it. What do you think ultimately happened to the poor bear that was simply acting on instinct and “training” from inconsiderate humans? How about the recent story about an elk “attacking” a photographer found HERE? The guy was supposedly keeping a “respectful” distance from the animal. This animal too had to be put down. Who is actually at fault?
If you are lucky enough to see these wonderful animals on your next trip, I implore you to keep your distance (a real, respectful distance), do not feed them, and do not litter. If we all do this, they will be around for the next group of people that come to the park. It will also help ensure the safety of those that come after you. It is not fair that we have to euthanize a bear because of our actions. Just as it is not fair that someone is attacked by an animal because of the actions of a previous guest. Let’s all work together to make sure that this stops today.