The Regional Review

Volume VII - Nos. 1 & 2

July-August, 1941


A press release from J. Ross Eakin, Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, warns visitors about the danger of teasing or playing with the bears in his park.

"Visitors," says the release, "are warned not to feed the bears and to keep a reasonable distance away from those bruins which are to be seen along the roadsides. Persons who are hiking along the park trails need have no fear of these animals, although hikers who spend the night in the Appalachian Trail shelters or in tents pitched in remote areas of the park are advised to keep their food supplies outside their sleeping quarters and out of reach of the ever-hungry bears. A number of these animals, stimulated by sweets and other such desirable food items, have become overly bold and will permit rather close approach along the park's highways and it is these bears that become dangerous. Numerous visitors have been bitten or scratched this year and investigation has invariably proved that the injured persons have been at fault. Some of the accidents have come about as follows:

One man was occupied with feeding candy to two small cubs when the mother bear appeared and insisted upon having some of the food. Shoving the big bear aside with one hand the man continued offering bits of the candy to the cubs when suddenly he was struck a fierce blow in the face. The scars which resulted will probably remain for some time.

One person placed his foot upon a sandwich which some unthinking lady tossed out in front of a bear. The act may have been prompted by bravado; at any rate, the bite in the leg required medical attention.

A bear, prompted by the food which a lady kept offering to the animal, entered the car where this generous person was sitting. The lady's efforts to coax the bear out of the car resulted in injuries.

One man retreated to his car after the food which he had fed to a bear ran out. The bear followed him. The man then thought it might be interesting to see what the animal would do when a lighted cigarette was applied to bruin's nose - -?

A number of persons have been injured who attempted to pose with a bear for a photograph. Numerous other incidents could be cited. All the injuries have come about due directly or indirectly to the feeding of these animals---a practice which is unlawful in all national parks.

Bears have enormous appetites. Hands which feed them are occasionally bitten or scratched. The bruins almost invariably insist upon more food and their insistence creates a hazardous situation.

Rangers are being stationed along highways in the park in an attempt to prevent injuries by bears, but there are more bears here than there are rangers. Park officials will either have to have the cooperation of all visitors in the matter of not feeding the bears or else the bears may have to be driven away from their haunts along the park's highways. The latter expedient would be most unfortunate since visitors naturally enjoy seeing the bears. With complete cooperation from park visitors we can continue to view the bears and at the same time eliminate bear injuries.

Recently bears have been responsible for a number of depredations in the park. A bear killed a cow belonging to a lessee on the park border; another day bears chewed up three saddles belonging to a horseback party at Little Indian Gap shelter cabin. It was also reported that on the same day a bear got in a spring house at Elkmont and drank four gallons of milk, then got his head stuck in the pail and couldn't get loose, in which unfortunate condition he was found, and it was another case of a ranger to the rescue -- of the bear. On the 13th a bear destroyed the tent and camping equipment of a party at the Cosby camp ground.

bear trap

On June 23 a bear who had apparently established a domicile in the Chimneys camp ground, having found living accommodations much to his liking there--to the extreme annoyance of everybody--was ingloriously caught in a trap set there for that purpose. The following day he was taken to Deals Gap, at the extreme western end of the park, marked with paint, and there released.

Here is the trap in which the bear was taken.

It was constructed of 32-inch Armco iron culvert, eight feet long, with locking bait door in the rear end and a sliding door in the front end, which drops and locks with a spring lock when it falls down. Both doors are of quarter-inch boiler plate. The baiting apparatus consists of a box containing the bait, in this case bacon was used, and a treadle, so arranged that when the bear steps on the treadle to get to the bait, the treadle falls down and releases the spring on the front door, and bruin is locked in.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002