Bear feasts at candy store in Tenn. mountains
Employees reporting for work found the bear Wednesday morning at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, where the animal apparently had knocked a hole in a glass front door to enter, according to The Mountain Press ( http://bit.ly/orYRBH ).
Police propped open several back doors and made loud noises, and the bear ran into the woods.
The animal had spread candy on the floor, and wrappers and packaging were strewn throughout a back storeroom. Pecan logs had been chewed and chunks were missing out of caramel apples.
Bob Miller of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park said bears are active this time of year, searching for food before hibernation.
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“It was scary inside here,” said supervisor Harold Wright as he motioned around the shop. “I was afraid it might do something (or harm someone). I was glad to get the bear out of here. I hope it doesn’t come back.”
When Gwatha Kear and Dorothy Robbins arrived at the kitchen in the early morning hours, they entered as they always do — through the back door. The pair weaved their way through the candy-making equipment, before turning on an overhead hood light.
Candy, wrappers and packaging were strewn throughout the back storeroom. Rock candy was broken in tiny pieces all over the floor and nuts were scattered everywhere. Pecan logs — $15.95 a pound — had been chewed on and hunks were missing out of $3 caramel apples. A whole container of white-chocolate-covered pretzels was demolished, including the plastic packaging they were housed in.
The storeroom’s cement floor was still wet and covered in paw prints, from the bear’s walk through the morning showers.
Upon further inspection, after rounding one of the candy-making counters, the women noticed a hole in glass of the front door. The bear had also relieved itself in front of the shop’s glass display cases.
“We knew a bear was in here,” Robbins said. “We could smell it. It left its calling card.
“We turned the hood on and I think we scared it. I’m glad it did. If I had saw it, I would have died in my tracks. (The bear) hadn’t been in here long. If we had waited until later to come in, it would have been a (bigger) mess.”
Immediately the women rushed outside to sit inside their vehicles and call Wright.
As Kear was dialing Wright’s cell phone, he pulled into the back parking lot.
“I said, ‘There’s a bear in the shop!'” Kear said.
The trio once again entered the shop, to alert police officers of the situation. Though everyone assumed the bear had been scared away, that wasn’t the case.
As Wright rounded through the storeroom’s doorway, while Kear was on the phone, he came face to face with the bear.
“I was six feet from it,” he said. “I told them it was a big bear and to get outside.”
Kear threw the phone down and dashed out the back door.
“(Wright) said I practically knocked him down,” she said.
Shop co-owner Patti Edwards adds, “(Wright) said he’d never seen (her) run so fast.”
After officers arrived, they propped open several back doors and made loud noises — ushering the bear outside. The bear wandered through the parking lot and off into the woods, where it hopefully won’t be seen again.
Edwards will dispose of all the gnawed on candy, as well as goodies stored near the bear’s feasting ground. Overall, the bear destroyed $400 or $500 of sugary sweets.
“It’s a bear with good taste,” she said.
The shop’s front door had to be replaced as well.
Though bears typically are skittish around people, waning food supplies and increasing human interference have caused bears’ fears to lessen.
“This is the time of year bears are typically feeding vigorously to put on weight for hibernation,” said National Park spokesman Bob Miller. “They really feed heavily in the fall. There’s a lot of bear activity, both within and outside the park.”
For bears hunting for food, the coming months will be a struggle. Poor berry and acorn crops have forced the bears to travel in search of food, finding spotty patches here and there.
“No food makes them pretty mobile,” Miller said.
To minimize interactions with bears, people living near park boundaries should take extra precautions this year.
Don’t refill bird feeders; avoid taking garbage out until the morning of garbage day; and store dog food inside are some ideas Miller suggests.
“Try to minimize the attraction of food sources to bears and you’ll have fewer problems,” he said. “The trick is to minimize the attraction of your property for bears.
“(The bear at Ole Smoky’s) had been getting food regularly or it wouldn’t have been that bold. They’ll associate food rewards with people and then go into places where humans have been. (Candy) is a great bear snack.”