(SEVIERVILLE, Tenn.) -- A black bear has died after accidentally locking itself inside a hot car while authorities say it was most likely scavenging for food.
The incident occurred at a rental cabin in Sevierville, Tennessee -- approximately 30 miles east of Knoxville -- when authorities from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) say the owner of the vehicle the bear was found had left the property in a different vehicle at around 10 a.m.
But when the owner returned to the home approximately nine hours later at 6:45 p.m., they found the bear dead inside the vehicle with the car doors shut.
“It appears that the bear got inside the car by using its teeth or paws to open the unlocked door and was trapped inside after the door shut behind it,” the TWRA said in a post on social media. “We believe that heat likely killed the bear as outside temperatures exceeded 95 degrees [on Wednesday] meaning the vehicle's interior possibly reached over 140 degrees.”
Pictures released by the TWRA show the bear slumped between the driver’s seat and the front passenger’s seat as a soda can and food waste can be seen on the floor of the car.
Citing the incident, authorities implored the public to be extra cautious and vigilant when it comes to dealing with and disposing of food in areas where bears might be.
“Here is a good example of how garbage kills bears … Notice the empty soda can and food package on the floorboard,” warned the TWRA. “Bears have noses 7 times better than a bloodhound and can smell even the faintest odor of food inside a vehicle. Lock your doors, roll up your windows, and never leave food or anything that smells like food inside! Empty food containers, candy wrappers, fast food bags, and even air fresheners can attract bears.”