Gatlinburg hotel kicks out guests for being close to bears

Quality Inn Creekside staff is still searching for a woman who pet a bear Sunday morning.
Quality Inn Creekside staff is still searching for a woman who pet a bear Sunday morning.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 9:46 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2022 at 9:10 AM CDT
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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Sunday morning, eyewitnesses described the blood-boiling moments when two people were seen actually walking up to a bear and petting it.

This happened Sunday morning at the Quality Inn Creekside hotel in downtown Gatlinburg. Owner Raj Patel said he was made aware of the incident when he saw pictures of a woman extending her hand just inches away from a bear’s mouth.

Misty Chrismon captured those photos and said that the woman actually made contact with the bear, and the bear swiped at her moments after. It was only at that time that the woman left the bear alone.

“She was petting the nose and everything, and then she put her hand out pretending she had food for the bear,” said Chrismon.

It’s not an isolated incident, but admittedly, the most bizarre one that Patel said he’d seen. He didn’t kick out the woman seen in the pictures; Patel is still looking for her. Patel did tell WVLT News that he had kicked out 10 or 15 people in the past, however.

“We typically every week see the same four or five bears.” said Patel who added that bears are seen walking around the hotel every few hours of the day.

Bears at the hotel have been known to be able to open an elevator door by themselves and even make their way into trash cans that are supposedly bear-proof, according to Patel.

While the desire to interact with the bears nearby is something Patel sees from guests on a daily basis, he said there’s a right and wrong way to do it.

He’s advising that you keep a safe distance from the wildlife if you encounter a bear and not to go near it. If a person does not follow these rules can lead to you being kicked out of the hotel.

“It’s not safe for the bears or the people,” said Patel. He added that he’s actively working to learn who the woman who pet the bear is so he can kick her out.

Gatlinburg Police is called every time there’s a gathering of people looking at a bear on site, according to Patel. He said there have not been any bear attacks to his knowledge since he came to the hotel in 2016. The hope is that consistently reminding guests to not engage with a bear, as well as having signage that reflects the same messaging will help keep everyone safe.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials offered advice on bear safety and procedures to report people that break the rules.

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