Bears no longer a threat where tourist scratched in Great Smoky Mountains, park says

A popular tourist area is finally safe from bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a month after a bear reached into a car and scratched a man, rangers said Saturday.

The monthlong closure of Rich Mountain Road made it safe for black bears to forage for natural foods, according to a park news release.

The road is in the Cades Cove area in Blount County on the Tennessee side of the park.

The bear became “habituated to humans and vehicles,” according to an Aug. 5 park news release, issued the day of the incident. “The visitor experienced minor scratches and did not contribute to the bear’s habituation.”

The bear reached into an open window, park spokeswoman Emily Davis told The Charlotte Observer at the time.

“The visitor, an adult male, was scratched on the arm,” Davis said in an email.

The park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Bears have trouble finding the natural food they need in August, rangers said. Berry season is over, and fall acorns haven’t ripened.

We’re to blame, too.

“Too often, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and residents of nearby communities feed human or dog food to bears, sometimes directly from vehicles and by leaving food in the road,” according to the news release Saturday.

The “illegal and dangerous” practice conditions bears to unnatural food, as well as people and vehicles, rangers said.