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Why You Should Not Store Food in Your Car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park


A fed bear, as they soon, will soon be a dead bear. NPS photo by Jeffrey Brooker

Travel to just about any park with black bears and you'll either be handed information or see signs clearly detailing how to protect yourself and your belongings in bear country. While the accompanying video of a bear breaking into a car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nine years old, it could have been taken yesterday.

Bears are uncanny at sniffing out the tiniest morsel of food, and your car is no match for their muscles. There are many, many examples of bear-inflicted damages to cars in national parks. At Yosemite National Park, for instance, officials keep annual tallies of auto damage inflicted by bears.

There actually are two "don'ts" to be learned from this video. The first is not to store food in your rig. After watching the video, can you guess what the second is?



The people that stood around and watched this bear break into the car were totally irresponsible. Why didn’t they chase the bear off and call the Park Service? Not only was this car damaged, but that bear may have caused trouble for other cars, campers or, possibly even acted aggressively towards some hikers. It would not surprise me if the bear had to be destroyed because it was, or became, a problem bear.

No doubt the car owner made a huge mistake by keeping food in a car with its windows partially open. However, those people that stood around and watched the bear taught it not to fear humans. There in lies the problem.


I don't know that these folks are all that wrong. Far be it from me to get in between a large, hungry bear and it's food. Sure, they should've contacted SOMEbody, but chase it away? Not me! What's to stop him from charging you? Some of these folks really took their life in their hands being so close in the first place.

I agree with Jeff but would add that stupidity of the people in the parking lot is mind boggling! The only sane comment was someone yelling out that someone should beep there horn but these poor excuses for adults would rather have a photo op,put themselves(with children) at risk and unfortunately contribute to the eventual killing of the animal. I wonder if they saw a bunch of people trashing the car would they have done anything? It's a wonder the world is such a mess when people can't think about right and wrong. The guy who Filmed this should be fined as aiding the bear in the cars destruction!

I grew up in the Carolinas and was a frequent visitor to Great Smoky Mtns NP and the surrounding national forests. Things may be different today, but the Forest Service and NPS did a pretty poor job educating visitors about the potential for bear encounters and their consequences. Bears were never a consideration when I went camping and backpacking in eastern forests. I was pleased to see user-friendly bear cables in Great Smoky's backcountry campsites when I visited a year ago, which is more than I can say for similar campsites in some Western parks frequented by bears. But as recently as seven years ago, back east, "bear protocol" simply wasn't part of our lexicon.

I agree that the idiots watching this happen should have at least honked their horns to try to scare the bear away. But they only thought of the photo op and did not think of the safety of the bear, themselves and other visitors to come !
As far as calling a ranger, there is no cell service in most of the Great Smoky Mtn NP and unfortunately you can spend most of the day there and never see a ranger ! Budget custs once again surface their ugly face Way too many visitors have absolutely no common sense and the wildlife always suffer.

I have to say that I saw a lot of candidates for the Darwin award! Did not one of those folks think this was not for their entertainment and that bear was a wild animal? Many of them were 'lucky' the bear didn't realize they were meat in sneakers.

You hit the nail on the head, Kim. Not only shouldn't you store food in your rig in bear country, but you certainly shouldn't go running up to a bear for a photo op, unless you want to be in it when the bruin turns on you.

And, of course, the others watching this show should have, as others have pointed out, tried to drive off the bear in some fashion.

Where does one should store his food on a camping trip, while stopping in a day use area, if not in the car? In this case the driver left his side window open enough for the bear to get a grip. That was his mistake. But having food in the car is not a fault in itself.

But the stupidity of all those people still buffles me. They aproach a bear to a few yards (in Yellowstone there is a 100 yards rule), they get between a bear and his retreat route. In the early stages it might have been smat to scare him away. But that wasn't an option anymore once he was in the car and got the food.

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