“It was just almost surreal.”

By Meghan Overdeep
May 13, 2020
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Michelle Eberhart

A group of friends got the full Goldilocks experience while renting a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last week.

Michelle Eberhart told WATE that she and a friend were inside chatting while their husbands were out golfing on Friday morning, when an unexpected visitor appeared at the back door of the cabin.

“She just started pointing and I was like, ‘what?’ and so I turned and looked and there’s a bear just putting his full force on the door. And then the door opens,” Eberhart told the local news station.

The women quickly ran upstairs and hid in a bedroom, while the bold black bear wandered around the cabin. As if that weren’t scary enough already, there were also three more bears hanging around on the porch.

“It was just almost surreal, it was just a fight-or-flight, like I just have to remove us from this situation and make sure that we’re at least in a safe place,” Eberhart recalled to WATE.

From the bedroom the women listened while at least one bear ransacked the downstairs.

"It knocked over the trash, it knocked over a book, and it destroyed a couple of decks of cards and it scratched up a lot of stuff. There were scratches on walls and the floor," Eberhart told CNN. Fortunately, no furniture was damaged.

But the bears did get away with a pretty impressive candy haul. Eberhart said they alighted with five pounds of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, a pound of M&M's, two pounds of Sour Patch Kids, two bags of potato chips, a tub of peanut butter pretzels, and two bags of Dove salted caramel candy. They also took two beers, two Diet Cokes and some of her allergy medicine.

The police were called, and eventually shooed the bears away from the cabin. But Eberhart’s experience with Gatlinburg’s black bears was far from over. She told CNN that said she saw 11 more bears on Monday after their friends left, and they heard another bear trying to get into the house early Tuesday morning. After her husband scared that one off, they hopped in the car and drove back home to Indiana.

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While is rare for bears to enter homes, it does happen. Matthew Cameron with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told CNN that the bears were probably yearling siblings that learned to look for human food from their mother. Food sources are particularly slim this time of year, which can result in these types of shenanigans.

"Unfortunately, this lack of available, natural food drives some bears to seek out human foods and engage in nuisance behavior," Cameron explained. "This aggressive behavior will continue until the summer berries begin to ripen, but that's still over a month away."

If you see a bear, keep your distance and call authorities. Bears can move very fast, so do not follow them or get too close.