KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A video captured near a popular Gatlinburg, Tennessee attraction showing two large black bears engaged in an aggressive tussle Monday has been viewed on Facebook more than 350,000 times.
Billie Jo and Micah Campbell recorded the brawling bruins from the safety of a garage near historic Ely’s Mill.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wrote on Facebook they believe that the altercation may have been over a food source as it is a bit early for bears to engage in a battle for dominance during breeding season, an assessment echoed by Zoo Knoxville Director of Animal Care, Conservation & Education Phil Colclough.
“A couple good educated guesses would be these are two animals that are just recently out of hibernation, potentially fighting over territory or resources. Food is pretty scare right now, so they could be fighting over scarcity of food,” Colclough said. “I saw a whole lot of open mouth contact. It didn’t look like it was very violent to me. There was not a lot of biting or tearing or that sort of thing.”
“Another possibility, the one on the ground looks like it could possibly be a female and the larger one looks like it could be a male and that could be [a] female that’s defending cubs,” Colclough said. “She may have some cubs kind of early right now and it very well could be just a defense maneuver around those cubs.”
Wildlife officials encourage people to remember simple bear safety when visiting the area.
“You should always stay back from wildlife no matter what, especially if there’s a volatile situation like this,” Colclough said. “You should be staying back anyway but with a volatile situation like this you ought to really pay attention to that rule.”
“Don’t feed bears. Don’t feed them by accident. Don’t feed them on purpose. A fed bear by humans a lot of times means a dead bear because they become nuisance bears,” he said. “They get around people. They break into their cars and they break into their picnics. Lots of times they either have to be relocated or euthanized and neither one of those is a perfect solution.”