Man caught on camera confronting mama bear and cubs at Tennessee park

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WTHR) – A park visitor at Cades Cove in Tennessee was caught on camera confronting a mama bear and her cubs.

Onlooker Paige Marple told 10News she originally got out her phone to get footage of the bears, but ended up recording every moment of an encounter she expected to turn tragic any moment.

"I honestly thought we were going to sit there and just watch him get mauled," Marple told 10News.

In the video, you can faintly hear the man making "tsk tsk tsk" sounds at the bears as he inches closer towards the cubs.

The cubs avoided the man at first, and Marple doesn't think the momma bear saw him approach her cubs that first time around because a car was blocking her view.

But once the bears reached the other side of the car, the video shows the man running to confront her family yet again.

That's when the momma bear lunges at him.

"I honestly thought me and everybody else parked in that parking lot were about to be traumatized for the rest of our lives," Marple said. "I really thought she was about to attack him."

In a statement, the park says:

"Help us best protect bears in the park, it is critical that people act responsibly during their visit. Bears should never be fed or approached. We work hard to keep bears wild in a space shared with 11.4 million people. We need each visitor to do their part by always staying at least 50 yards back from bears and properly disposing of food waste - for their safety and that of the bears."