Bear Travels 1,000 Miles Across Four States

Curious researchers have got their hands on a female black bear to get a better understanding of bear relocation patterns. The animal was relocated from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and she was directed to South Cherokee National Forest in Polk County, Tennessee, with a GPS collar that tracked her movements.

The purpose of the study was to understand what was happening to bears that were relocated outside of the park. Prior to the study, GSMNP assumed that a few relocated bears were hit by cars or harvested, while others returned home.

The GPS tracker on this female bear tracked behavior that was quite normal for a wild animal. Locating a food source was its primary motive. The bear was seen munching on food off picnic tables, stealing backpacks and sniffing trash cans. 

Credit: WBIR

Researchers have attached collars to bears for around 40 years and this female bear relocated to the Cherokee National Forest is known as number 609. She was a unique traveler when wildlife biologists found that she traveled 1,000 miles across Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina before coming back to Tennessee. She passed I-40 and returned to the Great Smoky Mountains, which was also the place she was initially captured.

“This was definitely one of the most bizarre movements I’ve seen so far,” said Bill Stiver, one of the wildlife biologists. “She never slowed down. She just kept on going”

The bear wasn’t ready to stop the adventures and she drifted back to Alpharetta, Georgia. She was picking up trash and crashing malls. “This bear actually got hit by a car in Georgia but it didn’t kill her,” said Stiver.

Her journey ended near Cherokee. Although there is no data on her whereabouts, researchers still believe she is somewhere alive.

When the bear left Alpharetta, she headed toward the Anderson, South Carolina, area. Family members of a GSMNP employee interacted with her and she was gaining the hearts of many on the road. “This particular bear had a personal connection with some of my family members,” said Lisa Mcinnis, the Chief of Resource Management and Science.