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Simple precautions help people avoid coming into conflict with hungry bears

Photo by Chelsi Burns/USFWS • A black bear cub stands by the road on Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

From Staff Reports

It’s summer, which means that problems can arise between people and their wildlife neighbors.

For instance, a problem bear reported at Carden’s Bluff Campground on Watauga Lake in Carter County has been captured. The campground reopened to the public on Thursday, June 23, after a brief closure that followed reports on June 16 of aggressive bear activity and evidence of bears entering the campgrounds and taking food and garbage, including food that had been stored in an unoccupied tent. 

The U.S. Forest Service recommends the following when camping:

• Throw away all trash in an approved receptacle. Don’t leave anything behind and do not burn food scraps or other trash in fire rings. 

• Stay alert, be aware of your surroundings, and stay together. 

• Make noise so that bears can avoid you.

• Keep food and other attractants in a locked vehicle, bear-resistant container or hung from a tree at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet away from the truck or limbs. 

• Never store food, garbage or any other attractants in a tent.

U.S. Forest Service officials are also warning visitors to be on the lookout for black bears and be BearWise. Visitors are reminded of the Forest Order for the entire Cherokee National Forest that prohibits possessing or leaving food, bear attractant or refuse unless it is possessed properly or stored properly. The Order was issued to provide for visitor safety and the conservation of bears and to help ensure that recreational areas can safely remain open to Forest visitors. If black bears are unable to successfully acquire human food or garbage in a recreational area the likelihood of human/bear conflicts are greatly reduced.

Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available. Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. 

Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property and themselves. Being BearWise helps people live responsibly with black bears.

According to the Tennessee Watchable Wildlife website, the black bear is the largest carnivore in the state. They predominantly occur in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, but also occur in smaller numbers in the northern Cumberland Mountains and in a few places on the Cumberland Plateau.

An adult black bear can weigh between 200 and 600 pounds.

Black bears are not fussy eaters and consumer a variety of foods. According to Tennessee Watchable Wildlife, a bear’s diet can consist of berries, fruits, seeds, acorns, bark, roots, grass  and other plant material. The animal foods they eat include ants, crickets, beetles, bees and their honey, fish, frogs, small rodents, fawns, bird eggs and carrion.

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