A man has been spotted using a drone to harass a black bear in a tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, breaking two laws at once. Using drones and other unmanned aircraft is illegal within the boundaries of the park, and "approaching any wildlife within 50 yards or within any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife is prohibited" according to laws and policies laid out by the National Park Service (NPS).
Wildlife photographer Evan Watts caught the incident on camera, and noted that "not only was that guy operating a drone inside the park, he eventually chased the bear out of the tree with it!”
Watts' video, which you can see below, was shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty, often involving wildlife. Other recent close calls have included a group of tourists cornering a bear with a selfie stick in the Smokies, and a woman trying to pet a moose while her husband watches.
A photo posted by on
According to the NPS, there has been a dramatic rise in the popularity of drones in the US over recent years, which presents problems at National Parks where they can disturb wildlife and visitors who want to enjoy a moment of peace.
"In some cases, their use has resulted in noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, park visitor safety concerns, and one documented incident in which park wildlife were harassed," says the NPS.
"Small drones have crashed in geysers in Yellowstone National Park, attempted to land on the features of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, been lost over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and been stopped from flying in Prohibited Airspace over the Mall in Washington DC."
In 2014, launching, landing and operating unmanned aircraft within National Parks became illegal, with very few exceptions. Using drones within park boundaries is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5.000 fine.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.