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‘I just wanted to hug him’: Alabama family encounters black bear in Gatlinburg

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — A central Alabama family had a bear encounter during a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains area, but it turned out to be a pleasant experience.

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The bear just wanted to hang out.

McKinley Sellers Poe, of Thorsby, was vacationing in Gatlinburg when a black bear ambled up to the patio where her family was staying, WVLT-TV reported.

“It walked right up to the patio and hung out for a little while,” Poe told the television station.

Poe told WBRC-TV that her father-in-law originally spotted the bear. The animal stayed on the porch outside the patio for about 15 minutes before leaving, the television station reported.

“I just wanted to hug him,” Poe told WVLT.

Advised by her in-laws that was not a smart course of action, Poe contented herself with simply watching the bear with her family from a safe distance, according to the television station.

She did not touch or feed the bear, according to WVLT.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a list of what to do if you encounter a bear.

“Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable,” according to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website. “Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you.”

Dana Soehn, a spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said that natural food sources for bears are low, which means the animals are more likely to forage for food near people, WVLT reported.

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