I'm starting to think I may be one of the few people left on this planet who has not seen a bear in person, not counting a zoo.

BEAR SIGHTINGS

It's amazing to me how many Facebook posts we've seen over the past year or so featuring bears walking amongst the humans. We've even had black bear sightings in the tri-state recently. What is up with that? It never used to happen.

Even my immediate family has one up on me. Dad was changing a flat tire in Yellowstone way back in the day, before I was born, and a bear wandered up behind him and started closely investigating the car. While my sister was screaming and my mom was trying to calm her down, my dad was over talking to a ranger who advised him to chill until the bear left, which it did. No harm, no foul.

Where is my BEAR SIGHTING?

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A BEAR OF THE PEOPLE

Yes, I'm being facetious, to a certain extent. Of course, it would be very cool to see Gatlinburg wildlife that didn't involve cages and keepers, but when it's a BEAR, I'd stay a little farther back than THESE folks:

TOO CLOSE FOR MY COMFORT

Sure, it's incredibly tempting to see how close you can get to a carnivore that probably weighs AT LEAST twice as much as you do, but what if it got spooked?

I've been to Gatlinburg and I've seen the signs about not feeding bears and keeping tight lids on dumpsters. The city and every other one in the Smoky Mountains knows the deal. I mean I never see any authorities try to approach one of them to usher them away from bystanders.

Anyway, my rule of thumb with bears will always be MINIMUM SAFE DISTANCE. Even if he IS chowing down on a great big pumpkin.

SEE INSIDE: Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in the Smoky Mountains

Brushy Mountain was an operating prison for more than 100 years but has been a popular destination for tourists since its closure in 2009.

LOOK: Here are the pets banned in each state

Because the regulation of exotic animals is left to states, some organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, advocate for federal, standardized legislation that would ban owning large cats, bears, primates, and large poisonous snakes as pets.

Read on to see which pets are banned in your home state, as well as across the nation.