A black bear that was relocated by a national park after becoming accustomed to eating food from visitors traveled over 1,000 miles for 6 months to make its way back to the park.
The bear, known as Bear 609, started off in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee but had to be relocated due to “food-conditioning behavior” which means she had become accustomed to eating garbage and food given to her by campers, KMSP-TV reported.
After the park tried unsuccessful measures to prevent the bear from being so comfortable with people, they were forced to move Bear 609 about 45 or 50 miles away to the Cherokee National Forest where she was fitted with a GPS tracker and released.
Over the next 6 months, digital tracking data showed that Bear 609 traveled more than 1,000 miles through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina before eventually returning to the very same campsite in Tennessee where she was originally captured.
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“She never slowed down,” Bill Stiver, a wildlife biologist who was tracking the bear, told WBIR-TV. “She just kept on going. This was definitely one of the most bizarre movements I’ve seen so far.”
After returning to the campsite, Bear 609 went to Georgia and was covered 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 denned back in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest about 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 makes it important to tell people the importance of not feeding wildlife.
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“When bear’s behavior escalates to a certain level, there are not many options left, either move them or euthanize them and for years we have moved them,” Stiver said.