KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A bear was seen wandering around a neighborhood in Karns, and it was caught on a neighbor’s surveillance video camera.
Stephanie Plante said her surveillance camera caught the small bear wandering near her driveway Tuesday in the Painter Farm subdivision.
Before seeing the video herself, she heard the news about the furry visitor from her neighbor Patrick Puhr, who was working from home at the time.
Just happened to be looking out the window and saw this, what I thought was a dog, walking across the neighbor’s yard and uh it took a second to register, and I realized it was a bear,” Puhr said.
Puhr saw the bear disappear behind Plante’s home, so he went over to make sure her two kids weren’t playing outside.
Plante couldn’t believe what she heard.
“It was kind of like ‘no way. They can’t be right, they can’t be right.’ We were just like, and we looked on the camera and yeah, it was. It was like ‘okay,'” Plante said.
The bear is seen on video for a few seconds in the top right corner of the camera before it heads behind her home, and she believes, to the park nearby.
Both Plante and Puhr were shocked to see a bear in their neighborhood. It’s a fairly busy area, it’s not rural and it’s not in the mountains.
“We go out to the Smokies all the time and see them when we drive around, but I was not expecting to see one here,” Puhr said.
“We have, you know, 80 something homes in here and then we have Harrell Road Park, and on the other side is Wright Road and Oak Ridge Highway. So everything is, I mean it’s pretty busy. People are riding their bikes, you know kids are out there, people are fishing,” Plante said.
Plante said she called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and was told by an officer that they received reports of three bears in the area.
Matthew Cameron, spokesperson for TWRA, said Knox County is considered bear country, and it’s not surprising to see the bears roam in areas people aren’t used to seeing them in.
“In the Knoxville Valley we’re in between two pretty good sized bear populations and they’re coming down out of the hills and re-colonizing their ranges, and I think as time goes by we will see more,” Cameron said.
He said bears can be found all through East Tennessee, and said bear sightings are something that will continue to become more common over time.
“The population continues to slowly increase over time and the human population continues to increase and there’s just more um, I think more opportunities for bear-human interactions. And everyone has a smart phone in their pocket and we have security cameras on many homes and on doorbells and these interactions and bear sightings are just getting documented more as well,” Cameron said.
As far as how many bears were in the area, Cameron said if the bear Puhr and Plante saw was a cub, that means others are nearby, and they weren’t just passing through the area.
“(The momma bear is) not going to travel you know, 20 miles with that cub. She’s going to keep it and raise it pretty close to home. So, it tells me that there’s a least a male bear somewhere in that area,” Cameron said.
With more people capturing videos and photos of bears, Cameron said those people need to be cautious on several fronts.
People shouldn’t get near the bears, but they can enjoy the furry visitors from a distance, Cameron said.
Cameron also said right now it’s summer berry season, which bears love and will travel to eat. But, that doesn’t mean a bear won’t eat human food if they smell it and it’s easily accesible.
So, Cameron said, since these residents saw bears in their area they need to be careful with their trash and hide bird feeders, so bears don’t become habituated to human food.
“When they become habituated, it’s much like a person on drugs. They continue to go back where they know they’re going to get the food and it’s nearly impossible to get them to stop that habituated behavior once they get started on it,” Cameron said.
A bear becoming habituated to human food often leads to the bear being relocated or killed, according to Cameron.
Although the bear sighting was a surprise to Puhr and Plante, the both welcomed their visitor as long as people kept their distance and everyone was safe.
“Be kind of aware of your surroundings, and you know, take caution and you know, don’t go close to the wildlife, you know, cause it could go bad. And you know, teach my children that. And hope that others do the same,” Plante said.