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Smoky Mountain black bear walking on the road

Smoky Mountain Black Bear Dines on Pizza at Downtown Gatlinburg Restaurant

Bears like pizza too — at least the one who stopped by a downtown Gatlinburg restaurant for a bite to eat did! On Aug. 5, a black bear climbed onto the patio of Howard’s Steakhouse, surprising both customers and employees. Visit My Smokies has all your info on the Smoky Mountain black bear encounter and what to do if you see a bear in Gatlinburg:

Smoky Mountain Black Bear Visits Gatlinburg Restaurant

Visitors and locals in Gatlinburg were just enjoying their meals on the patio at Howard’s Steakhouse when an unexpected visitor joined them. A young black bear had climbed up a tree from the creek and onto the patio. When the customers saw the bear, they got up and left the restaurant quickly, leaving their food on the tables. The bear then got up on one of the tables and helped himself to some pizza before the waitress used a chair to push it away from the patio.

Watch the video from WBIR below to learn more about the black bear encounter:

What to Do if You See a Black Bear in Gatlinburg

Though not always likely, there is always the possibility that you might see a black bear wandering around downtown Gatlinburg when you visit. That’s why it is important to be educated on what to do and how to keep both you and the bear safe. When it comes to seeing a bear at a restaurant or other business, biologist Dan Gibbs with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the best thing to do is to make as much noise as possible to deter the bear from coming any closer and restore the bear’s fear of humans.

Here are some common black bear safety tips to keep in mind:

Stay at least 50 yards away from the bear: Keeping a safe distance is the most important thing to remember. If you get any closer, you risk making the bear feel threatened.

Do not feed the bear: Bears have a natural fear of humans. When they are intentionally fed, they learn to associate people to food and lose that fear.

Do not run from the bear: If you encounter a bear, it’s important NOT to follow your first instinct to run. Instead, move away slowly and sideways. This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and is a non-threatening movement.

How to Safely See Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains

Black bear hiding in the Smoky MountainsSeeing a black bear on vacation is exciting, but only if you do it in a way that’s safe for both you and the bear. One of the best places to spot a bear is in Cades Cove, where they are most visible in the early mornings and late evenings. If you travel along the Cades Cove Loop Road, you have the chance to view the bears from the comfort of your car. Though Cades Cove is the most popular place to see a black bear, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the bears’ home, so be on the lookout anywhere you are in the park. To view the bears from a safe distance, the national park recommends using binoculars or a spotting scope.

To see a video of another recent Smoky Mountain black bear encounter in downtown Gatlinburg, check out our blog, “Bear Spotted Walking on Ripley’s Moving Theater in Gatlinburg (Video Included!).”

For more information on wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, read our guide for where and when to spot your favorite wildlife.