Man’s Drone Antics with Bear Leads to Controversy at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In a recent incident at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a man brazenly used a drone to harass a black bear out of a tree. This action violated not one, but two laws, as drones and other unmanned aircraft are prohibited inside the park. Additionally, as per the National Park Service (NPS) guidelines, “approaching any within 50 yards or within any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife is prohibited.”

Wildlife photographer Evan Watts was at the scene and captured the event. In his words,” not only was that guy operating a drone inside the park, he eventually chased the bear out of the tree with it!”

The footage was later shared on the Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, a platform highlighting reprehensible behavior in picturesque natural locations.

The Growing Drone Problem in Parks

The NPS acknowledges the increasing popularity of drones in the US but raises concerns about their impact in . Drones often disrupt the tranquility of these areas, bothering both wildlife and visitors. The NPS states that there have been “noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, park visitor safety concerns, and one documented incident in which park wildlife were harassed.”

The issues don't stop there. Drones have crashed into Yellowstone National Park's geysers, tried landing on Mount Rushmore, vanished over the Grand Canyon's edge, and even flown into restricted airspace over the Mall in .

Since 2014, drones' usage in National Parks has been illegal with very limited exceptions. Violating this law can lead to severe consequences: a misdemeanor charge, a maximum penalty of six months behind bars, and a hefty $5,000 fine.

This latest underscores the importance of respecting nature and the rules designed to protect it. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, it's crucial to remember the boundaries and prioritize the well-being of our environment.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t think this was a “recent” incident. I live near the Great Smoky Mountains and visit often. The leaves are still green at all elevations of the park as of today 09/24/2023. This looks to be around the Chimney Tops (elevation ~4000) parking lot and they haven’t changed yet.

    • Thank you for chipping in! There was very little information available on this story. I wanted to share it to make people aware of how NOT to use drones. Thanks.

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