Date of Award
Master of Science
Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management
Nuisance black bears cause property damage, threaten public safety, and heighten wildlife use conflicts among people across the United States. Wildlife managers have solutions to control nuisance black bear behavior and the accompanying conflicts that occur. The solutions are to require bear-proof garbage disposal, to prohibit intentional feeding, and to educate the public about black bear behavior. However, these solutions are either slow to be adopted or are ignored by local legislative bodies.
In 1999, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, adopted a local ordinance mandating bear-proof garbage containers. This thesis will explain why the city of Gatlinburg adopted the ordinance by documenting the influence of the cultural, political, economic, and ecological dynamics contributing to this decision concerning wildlife policy. The symptoms of these dynamic human interactions are revealed through the bear/people conflicts and related people/people conflicts that occurred at an increasing rate in the area.
This thesis will assert that Gatlinburg adopted the ordinance due to negative publicity and public pressures that threatened the success of the tourism industry. The model used to test this hypothesis is Stephen Kellert's (1994) wildlife policy model. The model categorizes the types of human interactions that influence constituency relations over time into four forces: biophysical; valuational; socio-structural forces; and the institutional regulatory. Each force interacts and influences one another. The information sources used to test this hypothesis are newspaper articles, memos, letters, interviews, pamphlets, ordinances, and brochures.
The model provides a framework to analyze these dynamic human interactions and their effect on the constituency decision-making process. The findings show that two mast crop failures at the height of the natural black bear population rise sent a larger than previously experienced number of black bears into Gatlinburg in search of food and to establish new home ranges. To offset this out movement of the black bear population, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) implemented an October hunting season. During the same time frame, Gatlinburg developed at urban densities adjacent to the largest black bear reserve in the southeast. Gatlinburg focused policy decisions around tourism without identifying with a responsibility to public safety or to stewardship of the park wildlife resources such as the black bear. Resulting property damage from nuisance black bear behavior and property rights conflicts over hunting in the city limits changed the balance of perspective towards the black bear. Citizen began to take action to find solutions to the problem. The conflicting values of the visitors and the residents perpetuate different levels of and approaches to wildlife use. Current-state laws inhibit the exercise of local control over hunting and feeding black bears. Groups representing the federal, state, county, and city governments disconnected when trying to solve the conflict. Confusion over who has control and jurisdiction over hunting, wildlife, and garbage in the city perpetuated the apathy towards positive decision making.
Tourism has slowed Gatlinburg's adoption of a local ordinance that controls garbage disposal. The black bear attracts people to the area. The city did not adopt a local garbage ordinance until public pressure against hunting of bears threatened the health of the tourism industry. The city, unable to override state control, adopted a local ordinance mandating the use of bear-proof garbage containers that has been suggested as a solution by experts for years. Due to the fatal black bear mauling of a woman in the GSMNP, proposed legislation is going before the state to stop the intentional feeding of the black bears. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) supports this proposal and intends to proclamate the intentional feeding of bears in certain areas.
Newton, Kate Mitchell, "Bear/People Conflicts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: An Analysis of the Social, Political, and Ecological Elements. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2000.