Bear attack

Altha had lived in close proximity to the vast expanse of the Great Smoky Mountains for nearly half a century. Over these years, she had grown accustomed to the occasional sighting of bears meandering through her yard in Wears Valley. The 90-year-old woman had developed an intimate understanding and respect for these creatures, cherishing the privilege of coexisting with them.

However, one day, she encountered a bear that did not align with the previous passive sightings she had experienced. This specific bear exuded an aura that was noticeably different, and Altha could feel it. This encounter felt unfamiliar and unnerving, unsettling her in ways her previous bear interactions had not.

A roaming beast

In June 2022, the tranquility of Altha’s surroundings was interrupted by a familiar yet distinct sight. She recognized this particular bear, or one eerily similar, from a past encounter. Despite the familiarity, there was an air of unease. This encounter felt different, sparking a sense of caution in her.

Though Altha had always acted with caution during past bear sightings, something about this encounter felt different. However, she remembered her previous actions that had kept her safe and tried to replicate them, understanding the imperative nature of her actions around these magnificent creatures.

Preventative steps

Through her many years living close to the wilderness, Altha had established certain protocols to ensure the safety of both herself and the wildlife. One such precaution involved ensuring her bird seed was positioned out of reach from any potential wildlife visitors. This practice helped maintain a safe distance between Altha and the wildlife.

Moreover, Altha was always cautious about her waste disposal, especially food remnants that could act as an attractant for bears. But, like all of us, she had moments of oversight, occasionally neglecting this crucial safety measure, potentially jeopardizing her safety.

Bear encounter

Matt Cameron, the spokesperson for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), emphasized the risks associated with leaving out food. In his conversation with WVLT News, he elucidated how such actions inadvertently conditioned bears to associate humans with food, a dangerous connection that could catalyze aggressive encounters.

This correlation intensifies the likelihood of unsettling interactions, much like the one Altha was presently embroiled in. The continuous habit could pave the way for numerous dangerous situations, even if unintentional. Altha’s encounter with the bear serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of inadvertent attraction.

Protecting herself

Wears Valley, Altha’s serene dwelling place, was recognized for its significant black bear population, with estimates suggesting a presence of around 1,500 of these formidable creatures. Their physical attributes only added to their awe-inspiring nature. The sheer number and imposing size of the bears made encounters like Altha’s both fascinating and potentially risky.

A mature black bear could stretch up to six feet in length and stand three feet tall, with females potentially weighing upwards of 100 pounds, especially during the summer months, precisely when Altha’s unnerving encounter took place. The bears’ size and strength added to the complexity of interactions between humans and these formidable creatures.

Keep your distance

The TWRA has always been proactive in educating residents about safely coexisting with black bears. Their guidelines stress the importance of maintaining a respectful distance and refraining from feeding them. These measures are crucial to minimizing potential conflicts and ensuring both human and bear safety in bear-inhabited areas.

If, however, one inadvertently finds themselves in close proximity to a bear, the recommendation is to assert oneself without succumbing to the instinct of fleeing. This guidance stems from the understanding that bears, despite their imposing stature, are often more fearful of humans than we are of them.