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TWRA: Humans to blame for euthanized bears in Gatlinburg

A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spokesman says officers euthanized three bears over the weekend. They're the only euthanized bears so far this year.

Gatlinburg — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says officers trapped and put down three bears near the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg.

They were the first bears the TWRA had to euthanize this year.

The agency says as more people come to Sevier County each year, the number of encounters with bears is going up as well.

"Bears are our friends, and we're here to protect the bears as much as we're here to protect our visitors," Chad Netherland with the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

The videos are humorous in the Gatlinburg CVB's Bear Facts campaign, but Netherland says the topic is serious.

"It's a little bit of entertainment where people see something and they laugh, but it has a real takeaway message," Netherland said.

That message is to stay away from bears if you see them.

TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron agrees. He says the bears had been bothering people in the neighborhood.

"These bears had been exhibiting some threatening behavior toward humans," Cameron said.

But he says it's the humans who didn't stay away that are to blame.

"It's our garbage, it's out intentional feeding, sometimes people actually walk up and pitch food to bears," Cameron said.

Cameron says when bears get too familiar with people, they have to make that tough decision to euthanize.

"It's not something that we like to do," Cameron said. I've done some research for you, and to my knowledge, this year, that's the only three bears we've had to euthanize, which is very fortunate."

And as more people visit the national park and surrounding area, he says there will be more bear encounters.

"There are just a lot of people in that general area," Cameron said. "And as the bear population expands, and the more people that visit the park, sure, there's going to be more opportunities for people to come into contact with bears."

A Great Smoky Mountains national park spokesperson says the park has issued 22 citations for being too close to bears in the last three years.

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