A large black bear paid a visit to Anakeesta’s Smokehouse restaurant on Tuesday night around 9 pm, surprising both guests and employees.
Tyler Crawford, his girlfriend Sydney Rodrigue and their 7-year-old son Tatum caught the encounter on video.
Crawford and his family are currently visiting the Smokies from Louisiana to escape Hurricane Delta.
Their son was the first one to spot the unexpected visitor.
“We were sitting down and drinking hot chocolate. We had our backs turned to it and my son says ‘look, a bear’ as casually as he could,” said Crawford. “We turned around and there it was!”
“We were the closest patrons to him and it was a scary sight,” recalls Crawford. “Especially when it lunged toward the employees. My girlfriend can be heard saying ‘can someone make this thing leave’ she was frightened both for herself and for our son.”
The bear is seen in the video attempting to rummage through a trash can, and then lunging at an Anakeesta employee who was trying to scare it away from nearby patrons.
Anakeesta, located in Gatlinburg, Tenn., is an outdoor experience that features 70 acres of forested mountaintop located above the heart of Downtown Gatlinburg. Due to the nature of the attraction and its high elevations, black bears have been spotted at the park on several occasions.
In fact, just a few weeks ago a video of a family of black bears went viral after they were filmed casually crossing Anakeesta’s mountain coaster, the Rail Runner, while a guest was riding. That video, which was originally posted on TikTok, racked up more than a million views.
Watch the latest black bear encounter at Anakeesta’s Smokehouse restaurant
A video of last night’s encounter was shared with TheSmokies.com by Crawford and his family and can be viewed below.
No guests were harmed during the encounter. Anakeesta employees were eventually able to chase the bear away.
As with every article we write about bear encounters, and every video we share, we like to remind our readers about the importance of black bear safety.
While this particular bear approached humans, and not the other way around, the National Park Service reminds us, it is important not to approach a black bear and not to let a black bear approach you whenever reasonably possible.
“Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don’t run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same,” reads a notice on the NPS.gov website.
“If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close.”
In the improbable event that a black bear attacks, do NOT play dead. (This tip only works for brown bears and grizzly bears). Attempt to scare it away. Use spray if available. You can fight back by using sticks, rocks, fists, etc., aiming for its eyes and snout. If you fight back, most black bears will give up.
We would also like to take a moment and commend the swift actions of the Anakeesta staff who always do their best to treat their guests like gold, keeping them entertained and safe.
Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. To learn more about Anakeesta or to purchase tickets, visit them online at Anakeesta.com.