Getting too close to Smoky Mtn. bears could cost you

With warmer weather this week, people are making their way to the Smoky Mountains and some are encountering bears. Getting too close can not only put you in danger, it can cost you money.

Rangers could issue citations that carry a hefty price tag.

With more than 1500 bears in the Smokies, rangers are asking everyone to take a step away rather than capture the perfect picture.

RELATED: Park Rangers: Expect bears to be very active this year

"People are free to walk into the fields, but if wildlife are present in the fields including bear or deer, we do have a regulation that you can receive a citation if you knowfully approach wildlife," said Dana Soehn with the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

This regulation asks people to stand 50 yards back or 150 feet. If someone is caught any closer, they are breaking the rules and could be cited.

"The citation you would receive if you disturb them is $50, but the ranger might indicate that you have a mandatory court appearance and there is always the option that the judge may decide you have that maximum fine of $5000 dollars or even imprisonment," said Soehn.

It's not about the money, it's about the education. These citations are set to help educate people-- people who get a little too close taking photos and people like Judy Lindstrom, who came from Florida to see spring in the Smokies.

"I was packing and I was thinking, maybe I need to bring bear bells or something like that you could wear to scare the bears away so they know you're coming. I know enough that I don't want to be between a baby bear and her mother bear," said Lindstrom.

Volunteer rovers will be out along the winding trails. These people are in charge of keeping the area clean and keeping people away from bears.

Once a bear becomes too comfortable around humans, the National Park Service has to put the animal down.

Another thing, do not bring your pets along on the path. They can attract the bears to come after them.


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