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According to a press release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, wildlife officers have charged a woman from Virginia with a misdemeanor violation after she hand-fed a black bear while on vacation in Gatlinburg.
In a Sept. 30, 2020 video that went viral on Tik Tok, Kristin Hailee Farris, 21, hand-fed what appears to be watermelon, chocolate and other food to a black bear in Gatlinburg.
The video is still live on the Tik Tok platform and has been viewed more than 500,000 times.
“Many people intentionally feed bears with little regard for the dire consequences to the bears and humans they leave behind.”
Working with wildlife officers from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Farris has been served with Illegal Black Bear Feeding in Gatlinburg. This charge is a Class B Misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Farris is required to return to Sevier County for booking.
“The overwhelming desire to have a close encounter with a black bear is strangely more powerful than common sense,” says Sevier Co. Wildlife Sgt. David Sexton. “Many people intentionally feed bears with little regard for the dire consequences to the bears and humans they leave behind.”
The video caption reads, “I’m that crazy redneck girl ya mama always told you about.” The original video has been embedded below.
Regulations that prohibit feeding black bears – and prohibit leaving out food in a manner that attracts bears – are intended to create a buffer zone to deter bears from going further into the city. These regulations help protect both humans and bears.
Tik Tok put a warning on the video that lets viewers know the action can lead to serious injuries.
Why feeding bears is bad for both bears and humans
According to the National Park Service, feeding the black bears is harmful to both bears and humans because:
- Feeding a bear will change its instincts. A bear fed by humans will cause the bear to lose an instinctive fear of human beings. This will result in a bear that approaches people in search of food. Over time, bears could become unpredictable and dangerous.
- Bears can cause property damage. Bears that obtain human food cause property damage and may injure humans. Bears pose a risk to public safety.
- Bears who are fed by humans do not live as long. Studies show that bears who lose their fear of humans do not live as long as bears that feed on natural foods. When a bear is too comfortable with humans, they become easy targets for poachers, they may be hit by cars and they are more likely to be euthanized.
Tennessee laws about bears
Willfully approaching a bear within 50 yards (or 150 feet), or any distance that disturbs a bear, is illegal within the Great Smoky Mountains. This law is in place to protect wildlife and people.
As a rule of “thumb,” if you hold out your arm, put your thumb up, and your thumb does not fully cover a bear in your sight – you are too close!
Whenever you visit the Smokies, remember to dispose of garbage in bear-proof containers, do not approach a bear within any distance that will disturb the bear and do not allow a bear to approach you.
Most importantly, never feed the bears.
@southerngrlmomI’m that crazy redneck girl ya mama always told you about😘. ##tennessee ##gatlinburg ##onewithnature ##babybear ##ofans ##BaseballSzn ##differentroundhere♬ Different ‘Round Here – Riley Green
If you see a visitor breaking these rules, call (865) 436-1230 or stop at a visitor center to report it.
For more information, visit nps.gov.
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