Bear scare: Animal has encounter with worker at Gatlinburg theme park


GATLINBURG, Tenn. — An employee at an eastern Tennessee theme park had a scary encounter with a black bear on Thursday.

At about 9:30 p.m. EDT, a black bear entered a concession stand at the Anakeesta Mountaintop Adventure Park in Gatlinburg, WVLT-TV reported. According to a video that went viral on TikTok, the animal was rustling through food at the counter of the “Bear Can.”

“No. No. Ain’t got nothing for you, buddy,” one person can be heard in the video.

The animal decided after a minute to leave the stand, but encountered a female employee approaching the door as it exited, according to WBIR-TV.

Both the bear and the employee were startled, and the animal lunged at the woman before scampering away, the television station reported.

The employee ran inside the concession stand and closed the door, according to WATE-TV. She was not injured and did not receive medical attention.

On Saturday, officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said that the juvenile bear will be euthanized if it is captured. The animal lost its fear of humans and sought out areas where food was available.

“The bear entered a (concession stand) from an employee entrance and was eating food inside while a crowd of people were close to it, videoing it, and talking,” TWRA spokesperson Matt Cameron told WATE. “This is not normal bear behavior. This occurs after a bear has obtained human food either from garbage, access to unsecured foods, or being intentionally fed by people tossing food to it and the behavior escalates.”

Anakeesta’s park operations were not affected by this incident, officials told WBIR.

The park is surrounded on three sides by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Black bears are native to eastern Tennessee and there is a large population in the area, according to the television station.

“Bears are a big part of the magic in the Great Smoky Mountains,” Austin Martin, communications manager for the theme park, told WVLT. “The Anakeesta team works diligently to create a safe space to co-exist with the native wildlife.”

Martin added that park officials want guests to experience the mountains and enjoy the views of the bears, but from a safe distance.

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