A tourist who hand-fed watermelon and chocolate to a black bear in a video that went viral on TikTok broke the law and will face charges, authorities in Tennessee say. The video of the woman feeding the bear in Gatlinburg was viewed more than 500,000 times after it was posted Sept. 30, WVLT reports. In a Facebook post, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said the visitor has been identified as 21-year-old Virginia resident Kristin Hailee Farris. The TWRA says she will be charged with "Illegal Black Bear Feeding in Gatlinburg," a misdemeanor punishable by up to to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Authorities say black bears lose their fear of humans when they are fed, which can lead to unpredictable behavior, the Charlotte Observer reports. Gatlinburg, a Smoky Mountains resort town, banned feeding bears in a 6-mile area of the city in 2000 to create a "buffer zone" and stop hungry bears wandering into town. "The overwhelming desire to have a close encounter with a black bear is strangely more powerful than common sense," says Sevier Co. Wildlife Sgt. David Sexton. "Many people intentionally feed bears with little regard for the dire consequences to the bears and humans they leave behind." (Read more Tennessee stories.)