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Smoky Mountain bear on rock

Woman’s Car Invaded By Smoky Mountain Bear

Kathy Gafford, a Gatlinburg cabin inspector, had an unusual encounter at work this week. When she was inside a cabin, a female Smoky Mountain bear and her cub climbed into the woman’s car and started rummaging through her car looking for food.

Smoky Mountain bear crossing signAccording to the report from a local news station, WVLT, Gafford was away from her car for roughly 20 minutes when the two bears climbed into the vehicle through the open windows. When Gafford came back outside, she saw the bears sniffing through the inside of her car and picking through her purse, all in search of food.

Luckily, the only damage done to her car was the fact the bears ate her lunch and spilled her soft drink. Apparently, there was also quite a bit of bear slobber in and around the vehicle. There is also a paw print on the side of the car where the momma bear climbed inside.

Gafford tried to scare the bear away from her vehicle, but all her attempts were unsuccessful. She tried banging on pots yelling at the bears, but it wasn’t until law enforcement arrived an hour later the bears finally wandered away.

In the news report, Gafford says, “She just kept looking at me like, ‘you can stop because I’m not leaving.”

More surprisingly, this was not Gafford’s first time encountering a Smoky Mountain bear while working. She recalled spotting another bear a few weeks ago climbing up the back stairs of a cabin she was working in.

Smoky Mountain Bear Safety

Although it is highly unlikely you will experience a situation such as this during your next trip to the area, it is important to note Smoky Mountain bear activity is particularly high this time of year because it is in between berry and acorn season. This means food supplies for the Smoky Mountain bears are lower, and that is causing them to search for other alternatives to eat in the meantime.

Smoky Mountain bear in fieldIf you do happen to run into a bear or any other native wildlife to the area during your trip, there are a few safety precautions we want to remind you of. This way, you can continue to enjoy a fun and safe travel experience.

Smoky Mountain bear safety tips from the National Park Service include:

  • Do not approach the bear
  • Do not allow the bear to approach you
  • Do not run. Instead, slowly and cautiously back away
  • If the bear approaches you, make loud noises and try to appear as large as possible. Throw non-food objects if needed to scare off the bear
  • Do not leave food unattended or out in the open
  • Do not play dead!

Keep in mind, it is illegal to willfully come within 150 feet of a Smoky Mountain bear. Binoculars and photo lenses are encouraged if you want to observe the animals in their natural habitat.

For information on how to safely view the wildlife in the area, read our blog on Spotting a Smoky Mountain bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


  • Avatar for Johnny Foster
    Johnny Foster

    Run into the same incident 8/28/2015 in the smokies, walked outside to go to my vehicle and found one just sitting there looking around

    September 5, 2015 at 1:48 am
    • Avatar for Mal Alder
      Mal Alder

      Oh wow! I bet that was quite a site. Thanks for reading!

      September 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

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