The Shocking Damage a Black Bear Can Do to Your Car in the Smokies

black bear climbs out of jeep cherokee

Insurance adjustors had to determine if the inside of this Jeep is salvageable (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

Couple gets huge surprise when they wake up to find a black bear in their Jeep on their honeymoon

Millions of people visit the Great Smoky Mountains each year hoping to see black bears in the wild. But these two honeymooners from the Atlanta area got a unique encounter they could bear-ly believe was possible. After they married in 2020, Blake and Katie Odgers started their journey of marital bliss with a honeymoon to the Smokies. When the couple arrived at their honeymoon cabin in Gatlinburg, Tenn., it wasn’t long before they spotted a black bear on their cabin deck. The bear sniffed around and wandered off. But that wouldn’t be the last time they saw him.

Two honeymooners in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, were woken up one morning by their car alarm. They were surprised to find a large black bear inside. It’s suspected that the black bear had been trapped in the car for some time. This is just one example of why you should practice black bear safety in the Smoky Mountains and always lock your car doors.

destroyed jeep interior by black bear in the smoky mountains
The bear tore the interior leather and bit the steering wheel in half (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

The couple gets the surprise of a lifetime

The couple got the wake-up call of a lifetime when they heard a car horn that sounded like it was coming from their 2014 Jeep Cherokee one morning. Looking out the window, the couple did not see anything out of place. So when Blake walked up to the vehicle to investigate, he was surprised to see a large black bear looking back at him after he opened the door.

Of course, Blake turned around quickly and ran back to the cabin. “We thought we had [taken] every precaution … no food in the car, etc,” says Blake. But that didn’t stop the bear’s curiosity. The couple speculates that the black bear opened the car door, climbed in the Jeep, and then became trapped when the car door likely closed behind it – since the vehicle was parked on a hill.

The bear might have been inside the car for hours. At the very least, it was inside the car long enough to do some damage. The interior leather was torn, the gear shift was damaged and the steering wheel was bitten in half. Officer Hunter Finchem answered the couple’s call about the incident. According to Blake, Finchem told them he had never seen a vehicle destroyed quite like this. 

leather seats destroyed inside jeep cherokee
The black bear tore the leather interior of this Jeep Cherokee (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

Was the Jeep salvageable?

The Jeep had to be towed away and assessed by insurance adjustors. Blake advises all visitors to the Smokies to double-check their surroundings and always lock car doors. “Always double-check,” says Blake. “Before going to bed, double-check to make sure and just be more aware. You’re in the mountains. This is their home, so just expect and prepare for them to be around. Take every precaution then double-check, even if you feel you have!”

jeep being towed away
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee has been towed away (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

The takeaway: Black bear safety in the Smokies

With every article about bear encounters, I like to remind our readers about the importance of black bear safety. Also, bears have unfortunately learned that cars can make good targets for potential food. Remember to lock car doors, even if you think there’s nothing in the car that might entice a bear. For this reason, always be sure to lock up garbage as well, and never intentionally offer food to a bear.

Remember, it is unlawful to purposefully approach a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains. The National Park Service says, “If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close.”

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1 thought on “The Shocking Damage a Black Bear Can Do to Your Car in the Smokies”

  1. My family had a close encounter of the “URSINE” Kind! We used to spend Halloween weekend in a chalet up behind gatlinburg. Mom and I had just gotten to the Haus and I, of course go right to bed. Uncle Tommy and Joe, my brother were enjoying cigars out on the deck. Around the corner of the house came ambling what appeared to be a yearling bear. They scooted as fast as a human can without running for the sliding glass door. They got in safely an as soon as they did this bear sees hoomans under glass!!!! He/She/IT reared up and slammed His/Hers/Its forepaws up on he sheet glass window. Why he didn’t bust the glass I don’t know but he was probably six feet tall or so. Uncle Tommy was alledgedly teasing the Immortal BEAST through the window!!! I know this because Everyone who stayed up Told me a slightly differing story!!!! LOLOL


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