Bear sightings increasing in East TN
Bears are nothing news in the Channel 3 viewing area, but more homes are getting an up-close encounter than ever before.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says that's because the black bear population is increasing and spreading. The TWRA says the black bear population is going up due to their management strategies. They've established bear sanctuaries and enforce hunting laws.
They say that combined with an increase in human population in East Tennessee, means the chances of a human coming in contact with a bear are higher than they were even a few years ago.
Peggy McGee of Ducktown captured video of a black bear roaming around her backyard earlier this week. Also in Polk County, Copperhill resident Deborah Adcock snapped pictures of a bear making itself comfortable on her patio Labor Day weekend.
"It's not typically something to be concerned about because we will have a lot of especially younger transient males as they disperse from their natal range, where they were born," TWRA Officer Brandon Wear said.
TWRA Officer Brandon Wear says bear sightings are more common near the Cherokee National Forest, however, there's been an increase over the last few years in counties a little further away.
Hunter Don Ralph captured a picture of a bear on his deer camera on Dayton Mountain about 70 yards from his home.
"They're definitely around," Rhea County resident Jason Lane said.
Lane says he had a bear paw print near his house, and a bear was spotted near his sister's house this summer.
"I would rather them stay away for a little while so people can deal with them, because they're different from the animals we have around here," Lane said.
"We do see more bears adjacent to those historical areas and where they've expanded their range into areas that might not have been suitable before," Wear said.
TWRA conducted a survey last year to see what resident's overall attitude is toward bears. The majority support having black bears in the area and most who'd seen one said it was a positive experience. Only 1-percent had a problem with one. Officials say that's usually because they're leaving food scraps, trash or pet food outside.
Bears are out mostly at night. Typically they'll run if they see you. If it doesn't stop hanging around your house after you remove any food source call state wildlife officials to come investigate.
Polk County is the only one in our area where bears are allowed to be hunted, and only on certain days announced by TWRA between October and December.