Wildlife researcher: Not uncommon for bears to move into urban areas in summer

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency had to tranquilize a bear in a tree at Morningside Park on Tuesday, raising the question of how a yearling bear got to East Knoxville in the first place.

More: Yearling black bear treed in Knoxville’s Morningside Park

The bear was safely removed and wildlife officers have taken it to a new home in the Cherokee National Forest.

Earlier on Tuesday, a bear had been spotted at Williams Creek Golf Course about a mile away from Morningside Park.

Wildlife experts say it’s not all that uncommon for a bear to be in such a residential environment. In fact, they say during the spring and summer black bears are productive in moving great distances.

Dr. Joe Clark, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been researching black bears nearly 30 years. He says cubs stay with their mother for about a year and yearlings are pushed out of the den in the summer to live on their own.

“If it’s a female, a lot of times they’ll establish a home range close to their mothers. If it’s a male, they’ll generally move some distance,” explained Clark.

He says yearlings are doing this to find mates, food and resources.

“A lot of times where they go, there’ll already be an established male there so they get their ears boxed or persuaded to continue moving on and that’s how they get into urban settings,” Clark said.

Because there’s a limited amount of habitat in the Smokies, Clark says it’s only natural from time to time for yearlings or bears to wander into urban settings.

“They’re just trying to move around and find a suitable place. Some of them just get lost every once in a while, and we’re sitting right in the middle of what used to be bear habitat,” said Clark.

TWRA says wildlife officers in East Tennessee last year looked into more than 1,000 incidents involving black bears that ranged from general sightings to property damage, aggressive behavior and orphaned cubs.

Wildlife officers estimate the total black bear population to be about 7,000 animals.

Here are some steps in order to keep these bears wild:

  • Never feed or approach bears
  • Secure your food and garbage
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active
  • Never leave pet food outdoors
  • Clean and store your grill
  • Alert neighbors to bear activity

For more ways to live responsibly with black bears, click here.

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