Newlywed couple gets huge surprise from a black bear in Gatlinburg

Black bear damages Jeep
Adjustors are currently determining if the inside of this Jeep is salvageable (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

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Millions of people visit the Great Smoky Mountains each year hoping to catch a glimpse of a black bear in the wild. But these two honeymooners from the Atlanta area got a unique encounter they could bear-ly believe was possible. 

Last weekend, Blake and Katie Odgers experienced one of the most important days of their lives – their wedding day. The couple started their journey of marital bliss with a honeymoon to the Smokies.

When the couple arrived to their honeymoon cabin in Gatlinburg, Tenn., it wasn’t long before the they spotted a black bear on their cabin deck. The bear sniffed around and wandered off.

Not too much of an odd occurrence around these parts. 

But the next day, the couple got the wakeup call of a lifetime when they heard a car horn that sounded like it was coming from their 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

Looking out the window, the couple did not see anything out of place about the Jeep.

So when Blake walked up to the vehicle to investigate, he was quite surprised to see a large black bear looking back at him after he opened the door. 

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

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 that in all his time of answering calls about bears, he had never seen a vehicle destroyed quite like this.  

Black bear damage
The black bear tore the leather interior of this Jeep Cherokee (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

The Jeep has been towed away and is currently being assessed by insurance adjustors.

Blake advises all visitors to the Smokies to double check 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 towed
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee has been towed away (photo courtesy of Blake and Katie Odgers)

Black bear safety in the Smoky Mountains

With every article we write about bear encounters, we like to remind our readers about the importance of black bear safety.

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.

Always be sure to lock up garbage as well, and never intentionally offer food to a bear. 

What to do if you see a bear in the Smokies

It is unlawful to purposefully approach a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

The National Park Service reminds us that it is important not to let a black bear approach you whenever reasonably possible. 

“If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close,” reads the NPS.gov website. 

If a black bear seems to have taken an interest in you, back away slowly, and do not turn your back to the bear.

Read More: What to do if you see a black bear in the Smokies; 3 safety tips

In the very improbable event that a black bear attacks, do not play dead. Instead, you can attempt to scare it away using spray, sticks, rocks and fists. If you fight back, most black bears will give up.

Again, this is only if the bear attacks first. Do not provoke a bear to fight. 

For more information about black bears in the Smoky Mountains, visit nps.gov.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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