Return of bear season prompts TWRA to offer tips to keep everyon - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Return of bear season prompts TWRA to offer tips to keep everyone safe

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With spring just days away, bears are beginning to awaken from their winter slumber.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said East Tennessee residents and visitors should prepare to see increased black bear activity.

"Many reports of bear sightings are circulating around East Tennessee, which is not unusual considering it is bear country," a TWRA spokesperson said.

TWRA Black Bear Coordinator Dan Gibbs advised that increased activity should be expected this time of year. Gibbs added that the bears are emerging in search of food to regain their energy and fatten back up.

The TWRA is educating residents across the state about living alongside bears.  

"In general, citizens and visitors alike should be proactive in their efforts to ensure that bears remain wild, thus reducing bear-human interactions," a TWRA spokesperson added. "The deliberate and accidental feeding of bears is socially irresponsible and causes animals to become conditioned and habituated to people. Bears that habituate to human presence eventually become a threat to human safety and the end result is that such bears are often killed by intolerant or fearful landowners or have to be destroyed. The fact that 'garbage kills bears' is irrefutable."

The TWRA said that Tennessee residents and visitors can help ensure that wild bears remain "wild." This can be done by managing sources of human food or garbage that can attract bears.

"The wise stewardship of habitat we share with bears is the joint responsibility of both wildlife managers and the public and will be essential for a viable future for our state treasure, the black bears of Tennessee," the spokesperson added.

Here are some tips the TWRA says to remember: 

  • Never feed or approach bears.
  • Do not store food, garbage, or recyclables in areas accessible to bears.
  • Remove bird feeders where bears are active.
  • Feed outdoor pets a portion size that will be completely consumed during each meal and securely store pet foods.
  • Keep grills and smokers clean and stored in a secure area when not in use.
  • Talk to family and neighbors when bear activity is occurring in your area.

The U.S. Forest Service has provided the following tips for people visiting campgrounds and picnic areas: 

  • Keep a clean site by properly disposing of:
  • All garbage, including fruit rinds and cores, aluminum foil (even from grills) that has been used to cook or store food, plastic wrap and bags that have stored food, and cans and jars that are empty.
  • Pick up food scraps around your site.
  • Never leave food or coolers unattended (unless inside a vehicle or hard-sided camper).
  • Wipe down tabletops before vacating your site.
  • If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or even throwing rocks and sticks at it. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or another secure area.

While in the Backcountry:

  • Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from a tree or limb, or use special food storage boxes and cable systems if available.
  • Do not cook or store food in or near your tent (food odors on tent or gear may attract a bear.)
  • If a black bear approaches, frighten it by yelling, banging pans together, or throwing rocks.
  • Do respect bears and admire them from a distance.
  • Pack out trash -- don't bury it.

Anytime You See A Bear:

  • Do not feed or toss food to a bear or any wild animal.
  • Keep children close at hand.
  • Keep pets indoors or in a vehicle or camper.
  • Do not approach a bear--they are dangerous. If it changes its natural behavior (feeding, foraging, or movement) because of your presence, you are too close.
  • Never surround or corner a bear.
  • Never run from a black bear -- back slowly away and make lots of noise.
  • Encourage others to follow these instructions.Be responsible. Improper behavior on your part may cause the bear to die.
  • In the extreme case that you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.

While Hiking:

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Carry bear pepper spray.
  • Read all signs at the trailhead.
  • Hike in a group, keep children close at hand.
  • Make your presence known (call out).
  • Hike during daylight hours and stay on the trail.-ü Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart, etc.
  • Avoid taking pets, they may attract bears to you.

The TWRA explained that wildlife biologists believe Tennessee's bear population is expanding. They estimate the population at 6,500-7,000.

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