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A black bear crossing the road.

Bear-Proof Trash Cans Are Coming to the Gatlinburg Parkway

From being on top of attractions to visiting restaurants, it’s no secret that more and more black bears have been seen around Gatlinburg! To protect the safety of both the bears and the people, the City of Gatlinburg is introducing bear-proof trash cans to the Gatlinburg Parkway. Visit My Smokies has all the details on the new “smart” trash cans and the recently spotted black bears in Gatlinburg.

Why Bear-Proof Trash Cans?

By the beginning of October, the Gatlinburg Parkway will have 22 bear-proof, “smart” trash cans that will replace the current 46 open-top cans between the Mountain Mall and the Gatlinburg Convention Center. These new containers are leak-proof and completely enclosed, which prevents the attraction of not only bears, but insects and other wildlife as well. These new trash cans are intended to make it more difficult for bears to have access to food. When bears are fed by humans or by their trash, they tend to lose their fear of humans and are then more likely to be aggressive.

Watch the video from WATE below to learn more about the bear-proof trash cans:

About the Bear-Proof Trash Cans

The “smart” cans are energy-efficient trash cans that use solar power to compact up to 50 pounds of trash. The cans monitor themselves and lock when they become full to prevent overflow. A message is sent to the city’s sanitation department to let them know the trash needs to be emptied. Not only are the cans expected to reduce the number of bear sightings, they are expected to reduce the number of trash stops that sanitation workers make, save city fuel costs and reduce idling vehicles that cause traffic along the Parkway. The trash cans are being added through a 5-year leasing contract with BigBelly Solar, Inc. The total cost for the bear-proof cans is $138,960.

A black bear with his paw on a rearview mirror.Recent Sightings of Black Bears in Gatlinburg

The decision to install the bear-proof trash cans along the Parkway comes after a growing number of black bears have been seen throughout Gatlinburg. The most recent Smoky Mountain black bear sighting in Gatlinburg was Sept. 5, when a black bear opened the door of a pickup truck, climbed inside and couldn’t get back out. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency urged that everyone keep their doors of vehicles locked and be sure not to leave food or anything containing the odor of food inside.

Throughout the summer, there was a number of other sightings of black bears in Gatlinburg, including one who visited Howard’s Steakhouse and stole a slice of pizza off a table on the patio, and one who was spotted walking on top of Ripley’s Moving Theater downtown. Watch the video of the bear on the Ripley’s Moving Theater below!

Black Bear Safety Tips

To protect yourself, those around you, and the Smoky Mountain black bears, it is important to keep these safety tips in mind:

Do not feed the bears: This is one of the most important safety tips for you to follow. When bears are fed, even if it’s just from scraps and trash you’ve left behind, they lose their fear of humans and are more likely to become aggressive, oftentimes leading to them having to be put down. For your and the bear’s safety, do not feed the bears and be sure not to leave any food or trash lying around.

Smoky Mountain black bear walking on the roadStay at least 50 yards away: It’s so important to keep a safe distance between you and the bear. Even though you might want to get closer to snap a picture, you must stay at least 50 yards away at all times. Getting closer will risk making the bear feel threatened and put you and those around you in harm’s way.

Do not run from the bear: When you see a bear, your first instinct might be to turn and run. But it’s important to know that bears can move as fast as a racehorse, and running will only make it more likely to chase you. It is best to move away slowly and sideways so you can always keep your eye on the bear.

Spotting a Smoky Mountain black bear is exciting, but only when you do it in a way that’s safe for both you and the bear! Find out more information about where and when to safely view wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then start planning your visit today.