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June 28, 2013

Cades Cove removes wildlife to improve traffic flow

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has removed wildlife in the Cades Cove area in an effort to improve traffic flow. The valley is served by a one-way, 11-mile loop road that becomes heavily congested once visitors abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road to take photographs of black bears.

Park officials said they are hopeful that removing wildlife will encourage traffic to move through the cove in a timelier, more efficient manner.

"Once the road opens up to traffic in the morning, it starts getting pretty crowded," said park engineer Bradford Kilgore. "The second someone spots a wild animal, traffic patterns are pretty much shot for the rest of the day."

Park rangers this week began relocating the cove's myriad species of black bear, coyote, moonshiner, groundhog, turkey, raccoon, deer and skunk. Officials said wildlife is scheduled to be completely relocated by the end of the summer.

"Part of the problem is the animals," said park ranger Teresa Davenport. "People like to look at them, which as you can imagine causes quite a bottleneck of cars. The obvious solution was to move the animals out of the cove. People can't stop to look at the bears if there aren't any. We've moving most of them to Knoxville. Let those folks deal with it."

The total cost of the relocation project is $105,000. Rangers said the cost will be worth it to keep them from having to drive out into the park every time some fool from Wisconsin tries to feed another bear.

"We considered installing a few traffic lights," said Kilgore. "We talked about just closing the road to motor vehicles, but then we remembered we were dealing with Americans. We also thought about expanding the road to a four-lane highway. That last option is still on the table if this doesn't work."

This is not the first time park officials have made improvements to Cades Cove. Last year the valley's Primitive Baptist Church was converted to a drive-thru fast food restaurant.

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