TWRA and Anakeesta implement safety measures following bear incident

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

GATLINBURG — Following an incident involving a black bear at Anakeesta Mountaintop Adventure Park, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and Anakeesta are collaborating to enhance park safety and reduce bear attraction.

Anakeesta, located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a popular tourist destination and also a common spot for black bear sightings. To address this issue, TWRA and Anakeesta officials met today to discuss improving garbage storage and limiting food access within the park.

In response to the incident, which occurred last Thursday evening, Anakeesta has installed temporary electric fencing and electrified “unwelcome mats” for use when the park is closed. The park has also ordered steel caging to secure concession stand doors and better contain garbage before it is transferred to one of their two large trash compactors. “We applaud Anakeesta for recognizing areas where they can improve on restricting bears’ access to garbage and human foods,” said TWRA Wildlife and Forestry Chief Joe Benedict. “We feel this synergistic approach will benefit both park guests and bears.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Anakeesta staff are equally encouraged by the new measures. “Our team is expanding our partnership with TWRA by implementing new initiatives to keep bears and people safe during their Smoky Mountain vacations,” said Bryce Bentz, Anakeesta President. “We are making improvements to our park every day with guidance from local agencies on how to stay ‘BearWise’.” Anakeesta Communications Manager Austin Martin added, “Anakeesta is continuously working to improve the safety and security of our park, including limiting bear interactions. We are dedicated to keeping our native wildlife protected in their natural habitat.”

The incident last Thursday around 9:30 p.m. involved a bear entering a concession stand through an employee entrance where several people were standing in line. The bear briefly made physical contact with an employee, causing minor injuries.

Following the incident, TWRA began trapping bears in the area, capturing several, including a female with four cubs and a larger male bear involved in ongoing research. These bears were released onsite. Another bear fitting the description of the bear involved in the concession stand incident was euthanized. “TWRA does not enjoy having to euthanize any wildlife, especially bears and we don’t do it indiscriminately,” said Dan Gibbs, TWRA Black Bear Coordinator. “In this incident, the bear entered a concession stand with humans present and made physical contact with an employee causing minor injuries. Unfortunately, this bear was not a candidate for relocation.”

Anakeesta officials expressed interest in becoming a recognized “BearWise Business” and aim to help expand the program to other area businesses.

For more information on living responsibly with black bears, visit