GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Virginia woman has been charged after wildlife officials say she intentionally fed a black bear while in Gatlinburg in an video that has since gone viral.
According to a release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Kristin Hailee Farris, 21, of Danville, Virginia, has been served a Class B Misdemeanor for Illegal Black Bear Feeding.
The release says Farris intentionally hand-fed what appears to be watermelon, chocolate and other foods to the bear in the video.
The video was posted on September 30 and went viral on the social media platform TikTok, where it has been viewed more than 500,000 times.
TWRA says they worked with wildlife officers from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to serve Farris with her misdemeanor.
She now faces a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Farris is also required to return to Sevier County for booking.
TWRA says similar actions are what created regulations to be put in place in 2000 that prohibit people from feeding a black bear or leaving food or garbage out in a way that could attract them. Those regulations apply to a six mile square area in Gatlinburg to deter bears from entering the city.
“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.”