The Washington Times - August 14, 2008, 11:14AM

After a recent blog post concerning black bears and the unexpected excitement and occasional danger they can pose, now comes word that a young black bear near Gatlinburg, Tenn., attacked and mauled  an 8-year-old boy who had been playing in a small creek before the sun set over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that his family visited. (link to story on

The boy’s father came to the child’s rescue and fought off the bear, thought to be little more than a year old, but the aggressive bruin returned and was driven off a second time. Park rangers eventually tracked down the bear thought to be the culprit and killed it. The park rangers are sure it was the right animal because when they spotted a small bear it did not run away, but acted in an aggressive manner toward the rangers and subsequently was shot.


The boy sustained some serious puncture wounds, as did his father, but the injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. I‘m willing to bet that the Boca Raton, Fla., family that had this Smoky Mountain bear experience probably will strike the Smoky Mountains off their list of possible vacation sites forever.

All the same, black bears normally are very shy and prefer to beat a hasty retreat. For very interesting and educational black bear reading and viewing, the North American Bear Center, headquartered in Ely, Minn., is a treasure trove of bear information. Go to

Meanwhile, more black bear news arrives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources that has been checking the movements of a yearling black bear which meandered into southern Anne Arundel County, not far from the Nation’s Capital.

What bothers me is the DNR’s strange wording of a message about the bear sighting, saying the young bruin is seeking out a “suitable habitat of its own.” Oh, is that all? What if it decides an Anne Arundel County homeowner’s garden shed is suitable?

However, I totally agree with the DNR‘s wildlife boss, Paul Peditto, who said: “Bears are wild animals that move across the landscape where and when they choose, often crossing man-made structures like roads, fences and parking lots, where they become visible to people. While it is not common to see a bear in Anne Arundel County, we see [bears] in Montgomery, Baltimore, and Harford counties every year.”

Peditto recommends to let a bear go on its way when it is seen. During travels that can cover more than 30 miles per day — the activity is known as “dispersing” — black bears generally do not pose a threat to public safety, but don’t tell the Florida family that after their East Tennessee experience.

The DNR wisely recommends that upon seeing a bear not to approach it; also allow an escape route for the animal and make enough noise to make the bear uncomfortable around people.

It should be needless to remind anyone that trash and garbage cans should be secured, pet foods and bird seed removed. Don’t let the critter think he’s found a home because then it will never leave and eventually will have to be removed or shot.

Maryland black bear information can be found here.

- Gene Mueller