A black bear relocated from a national park after becoming accustomed to eating food from visitors traveled over 1,000 miles in 6 months to return to the park.
The bear, known as Bear 609, started in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park but had to be relocated due to “food conditioning behavior,” meaning it had become accustomed to eating trash and food brought to it by campers were given. KMSP-TV reports.
After the park tried unsuccessfully to stop the bear from becoming so comfortable with humans, they were forced to take Bear 609 about 45 or 50 miles away to the Cherokee National Forest, where they were fitted with a GPS tracker and was released.
Over the next 6 months, digital tracking data showed Bear 609 traveled more than 1,000 miles through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina before finally returning to the exact same Tennessee campground where she was originally captured.
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“She never slowed down,” said Bill Stiver, a wildlife biologist who tracked the bear. said WBIR TV. “She just kept going. It was definitely one of the most bizarre moves I’ve seen so far.”
After returning to the campsite, Bear 609 went to Georgia and was reported by a local TV station while digging through a dumpster, and Stiver said she was hit by a car in Georgia but it “didn’t kill her.”
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It is now believed that Bear 609 is currently in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest approximately 20 miles from where she was dropped off before her long journey.
Stiver said about two-thirds of relocated bears are dead within four or five months, which is why it’s important to tell people the importance of not feeding wildlife.
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“Once the bear’s behavior escalates to a certain level, there aren’t many options to either move it or put it to sleep, and we’ve relocated it for years,” Stiver said.