GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – There was a bit of commotion in downtown Gatlinburg last Thursday when visitors saw a black bear walk into Aunt Mahalia’s Candies on the Parkway.
Employees at the shop believe the bear came in because he was scared by the large crowd taking pictures.
“There was a lot of screaming and yelling going on,” said employee Tina Aucker.
She was working when she heard all the screams. Thankfully, no customers were inside the store at the time and employees were in the back washing dishes.
“I come walking around like this, and there was a bear standing right there. And I looked at it like this and I said, ‘Hang on one moment and I’ll be right back.’ I turned around, walked back to the door and yelled, ‘Amy, there’s a bear out here,’” said Aucker.
She says as quickly as the bear went into the shop, he went out.
“Poor thing. Believe me, I would’ve gave him everything,” she said.
Visitors have been sharing videos, pictures and stories of the bear.
“It was pretty wild,” said Aucker.
October is a busy month in Gatlinburg, and it’s a busy month for bears who call the Smokies home too.
“Bears are spending a majority of their time eating right now,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver.
He says that’s why we’re seeing them so much, because they’re moving to find other food sources.
“They’re somewhat tolerant of people this time of year so one of the key things is to keep your distance.”
Wildlife biologists stress a bear’s behavior is unpredictable. If you see one inside the park, you must stay at least 50 yards away. If you see a bear in downtown Gatlinburg, you should never approach it.
Witnesses who saw the bear go inside Aunt Mahalia’s Candies believes the bear ran off, but they don’t know where. It did leave behind a big paw print on the rug.
“I love bears but I don’t want to be that close to them,” said Aucker.
Gatlinburg police say they received a number of calls concerning bears over the weekend. The city suggests you lock your garbage cans, bring food inside, and leave bears alone when visiting or camping.
Wildlife biologists say bears will begin hibernating within the next few weeks. Females will den first, sometime in mid-November. Then males will den in December or January. Both will hibernate through March and April.