Smoky Mountain Black Bear Goes for a Swim in Backyard Pool [Video Included!]

The head of a black bear sticking out of the water.

When Christelle Ribeiro visited Gatlinburg, TN for her vacation, her number one goal was to see a black bear…and her trip certainly didn’t disappoint! Christelle and her family got an up close view of the area’s most famous critter when a Smoky Mountain black bear decided to take a dip in her friend’s inflatable pool. The bear’s unexpected visit was filmed on a smartphone, and the resulting video has been viewed thousands of times online.

Watch the Video

After the bear’s bath became a viral sensation, local news station WATE spoke with Christelle and her friend Suzanne Whaley about their backyard visitor. You can see the interview and footage of the swimming bear in the video below:

French Visitors Get a Taste of Life in the Smokies

When a black bear crashed their pool party, Christelle and her three children got an experience that they don’t typically get at home. A native of France, Christelle was visiting Gatlinburg to catch up with her friend Suzanne. 23 years ago, Christelle lived with Suzanne’s family as a high school foreign exchange student.

Christelle’s children were playing with Suzanne’s 7-year-old granddaughter in an inflatable pool when a large black bear came lumbering into the Whaley family’s backyard. The kids ran inside to let the adults know about the furry guest, and everyone watched the bear from a safe vantage point on the deck.

Bear Enjoys a Nice Refreshing Dip

Summers in Gatlinburg can get pretty hot, especially when you’re always wearing a fur coat! Anxious to beat the heat, the Smoky Mountain black bear climbed right into the pool to cool off in the water. While in the pool, the bear batted around some toys and even chewed on a water balloon. Suzanne was afraid that the bear would choke on the balloon, but fortunately, the bear spit the balloon back into the pool.

After a couple minutes of soaking in the water, the bear casually left the pool and moseyed off into the woods. Sadly, the inflatable pool did not survive its encounter with the bear, much to the dismay of Suzanne’s granddaughter.

A Birthday Gift for Christelle

Despite the initial shock of seeing a bear in the backyard, Christelle and her kids considered the experience to be a highlight of their trip. In her interview with WATE, Christelle said, “I was excited and I was really happy because I wanted my kids to see one [a bear] from up close, so that was great. And it was my birthday, so it was kind of my birthday gift”.

The next morning, the Ribeiro family was treated to even more up close views when the bear from the day before returned to the backyard! The kids were able to safely watch the bear from the Whaley home’s large windows. The original bear was joined by a younger bear who also wanted to take a bath in the remains of the inflatable pool.

A black bear looking at berries on a branch.

Bear Safety Tips

While it is unlikely that a Smoky Mountain black bear will come swim at your cabin’s pool when you’re on vacation, it is important to practice proper safety precautions. Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Never leave food or garbage outside
  • Always stay at least 150 feet away from a bear
  • Do not run from a bear; slowly back away while watching the bear
  • If a bear approaches you, make loud noises to scare it away and throw non-food objects if necessary

Seeing Black Bears in the Wild

The best way to see a bear is from a safe distance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For advice on watching bears in their natural habitat, check out our Guide to Spotting Your Favorite Smoky Mountain Wildlife!

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