Furious bear lunges at man trying to lure her cubs away in the Smokies

Black bear and cub sitting on grass
(Image credit: Getty)

A man got the fright of his life after harassing a black bear and her three cubs at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The man was caught on camera seemingly trying to lure the cubs closer and shoo the sow away, but was frightened off when she gave him a warning charge.

The video was shot by another visitor, Paige Marple, some time ago, but has begun recirculating on social media after being shared on Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty.

Bears generally prefer to avoid close encounters with people, but getting between a sow and her young is one of the few situations where the animal is likely to attack, and this encounter could have easily turned out very differently.

The National Park Service (NPS) explicitly warns people visiting the Smokies that black bears are wild animals that can be dangerous and unpredictable. Visitors should never approach bears, or allow the animals to approach them.

"Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, is illegal in the park," says the park's official safety guidelines. "Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals."

If an animal changes its behavior due to your presence, it's a sure sign that you're too close and need to back up. Individuals will have their own needs when it comes to personal space, so watch out for signs like bluff charges, vocalizations and swatting the ground, which indicate that the animal wants more room.

Bears in the Smokies

Black bears live throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at all elevations, so it's important to be prepared for an encounter at all times. When hiking, travel in a group and make noise while you walk to warn animals that you're nearby and give them time to leave the area.

If you come across a bear but it doesn't approach, the NPS recommends backing away slowly to put more space between you. The animal will likely retreat as well. If the bear follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting, try changing direction. Bears often follow trails as they are paths of least resistance, and it may simply be trying to get from A to B.

If the animal continues to follow you, the NPS recommends standing your ground and talking loudly. Make yourself look as large as possible to intimidate it, and act together as a group if you're with companions.

For more advice, see our guides what to do if you meet a bear and how to use bear spray.

Cat Ellis

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.