Friday, August 11, 2017

Gatlinburg, Just Another Day in Bearadise

Thursday at 3 am, I woke up to banging. At first, I thought the kids were playing pool, and though 3 am isn’t an appropriate time to play pool, I thought that maybe they couldn’t sleep.
My pool shark

Then, the sounds got louder and louder and followed by thuds, and I thought maybe one of the kids was sleepwalking and fell.

Then, there was a loud boom, and Calvin woke up. He said, “The raccoons are in the garbage.” We did have a raccoon in the garbage the night before.

As Calvin and I walked to the back door (the trash cans were on the second-floor deck), I said, “Sweetheart, that must be a family of raccoons to make that much noise.”

I switched on all the lights. The noises became very loud. I said, “Baby, be careful.”

Calvin unlocked the door and peeked out. “Uh, Connie, the trash can is gone.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. That was a massive rubbish can.”

Calvin: “See for yourself.”

So I did. The trash can lid and the slate rock that we put on top of the can to keep out the raccoons were nicely laid on the deck floor. And the trash can was gone.

Cal turned on a flashlight, and we peered over the edge of the railing. Down on the ground was a black bear feasting on our garbage. Cal and I debated the size of the bear. I leaned toward 250 lbs. Cal pointed out that the bear was more than two stories away from us and probably weighed closer to 400 lbs. (According to Wikipedia, black bears can weigh anywhere from 160 to 550 lbs.) Maybe Calvin was correct.

The deck with a similar trash can
and the tree the bear climbed.
This hulking animal had to have climbed a tree and then leapt onto the deck. Happily situated on the deck, he removed the slate rock and the trash can lid. When I turned on the lights, he tossed the trash can over the railing and climbed down to finish dinner.

I called the State of Tennessee Bear Sighting hotline. They took down all my information for the bear tracker/relocation specialist.
Clearly, not the bear that visited our deck,
but photos taken at 3 am don't turn
out well. 

 Apparently, my new friend will be moved to the Cohutta Wilderness, which is where the “naughty” bears are relocated. I'm hoping that the process is anonymous—the Cohutta Wilderness is only 60 miles from our home in Chattanooga, and I’d prefer it if my bear buddy didn’t renew our friendship.

N.B. We ended up seeing 9 different bears (including the cute one on the right) during our trip to Gatlinburg this year. Because of the wildfires in November 2016, there is significantly less food available this year and the bears are becoming bolder to get the necessary body fat to survive the winter. We spoke to a local woman who told us that bears are figuring out how to open doors—her brother found a bear inside his truck because it had opened the door. 


  1. Gosh that's an adventure. I do understand that the wildfires would have this effect on the bears' behavior.

    We often see something similar with baboons here.

  2. A woman I know lives in Issaquah (a suburb of Seattle). She left a big plastic-bound package of apples from Costco on the back porch. At some point she saw a black bear in the backyard. She was careful to stay inside. When she did go out, she found the apples were gone.