East Tenn. wildlife officers explain uptick in bear sightings

Local News

It’s the time of year when we see more and more bears roaming, some managing to make it into neighborhoods or busy downtowns.

During the spring and summer, bears are most active early in the morning and late at night. TWRA says that activity peaks in June and July, part of the reason why so many people are spotting bears.

“I’ve got my camera all ready but nothing happens, you know? Just waiting for them to show up. Of course the name of the bear has got to be Smoky because we’re in the Smoky Mountains, right?” said Jim Krope visiting Gatlinburg from Anderson, South Carolina.

Wildlife officers say there are more bear sightings because it’s breeding season. Males are traveling far searching for females.

Another reason is that yearlings are now on their own, trying to establish a home range. TWRA explains while yearling bears are doing this, they may be lured by the smell of human food, campgrounds, garbage and more.

It’s a perfect reminder that we have to be responsible visitors.

“Remove all the food from their ars, lock their car doors when they’re not in the car. Do not leave any trash or food on the porches or decks of where they’re staying because bears will come to eat that. If you see a bear please back up. Do not approach a bear ever,” said Marci Claude with the city of Gatlinburg.

TWRA says now that berries are ripening, people may see less and less bears in urban areas because they’ll be moving to more rural areas to forage.

The chance to get a picture with a bear is what keeps so many coming back to sight-see.

“Really it couldn’t be any better than having some bears walking around every now and then,” said Kelly Bailey from West Virginia.

“I think they’re waiting for the Fourth of July to celebrate with us,” added Krope.

Wildlife officers say there’s little argument that the bear population is increasing; however, smartphones and mobile devices directly uploading video to social media only makes it seem as if there are more bear incidents than in the past. TWRA adds these types of incidents have been occurring in bear populated areas for decades but are now becoming more exposed.

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