Visitors charged, accused of feeding bear peanut butter

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Visitors to national parks are reminded about not getting close to bears.

But visitors in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park apparently didn’t listen and now face charges.

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The visitors, who have not been identified, are accused of feeding peanut butter to a bear in Cades Cove after a video was discovered of the incident.

Park rangers said the visitors confessed and officials issued a citation last week, WLOS reported.

The maximum penalty is $5,000 in fines and six months behind bars but could be as little as a $100 fine and fees, Yahoo News reported.

“Managing wild bears in a park that receives more than 12 million visitors is an extreme challenge and we must have the public’s help,” park wildlife biologist Bill Stiver told the Smoky Mountain News. “It is critical that bears never be fed or approached for their protection and for human safety.”

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The bear had been seen eating walnuts along a road and started showing food-conditioned behavior. Wildlife biologists believed the bear had been fed, so they trapped and tagged the animal. It was released in the area.

It is actually illegal to get closer than 50 yards to a bear or to feed them, according to the park’s website.

Park officials remind visitors that they should watch bears from a distance of at least 50 yards and never feed them.

For more on being bear safe, click here.