Paige Marple said she was filming a family of bears at Cades Cove National Park when a man approached the animals and started making sounds at them.
“I honestly thought we were going to sit there and just watch him get mauled,” Marple told WBIR-TV.
“I don’t even know where he came from, but he saw them and started walking in between our truck and the car towards the cubs,” Marple said.
The mother bear lunged at the man, but didn’t make physical contact.
“I honestly thought me and everybody else parked in that parking lot were about to be traumatized for the rest of our lives,” Marple said. “I really thought she was about to attack him.”
Marple said the man walked away from the bears and was then subject to a barrage of obscenities from other park visitors.
“There were people on the other side telling him he was an idiot,” Marple said. “I wasn’t going to interfere. You can’t stop stupidity.”
Park officials released a statement reminding visitors to give space to wildlife.
“Bears should never be fed or approached. We work hard to keep bears wild in a space shared with 11.4 million people. We need each visitor to do their part by always staying at least 50 yards back from bears and properly disposing of food waste — for their safety and that of the bears,” the statement said.
“Bears are wild animals and their behavior is unpredictable. Mother bears are extremely protective of their young and they will aggressively defend their cubs from harm. By approaching a mother bear with cubs, visitors are putting themselves and others at risk of injury,” officials said.