MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – This time of year we hear about black bear sightings in East Tennessee and some have been a little too close for comfort. One was even spotted in North Knoxville just last week.

Bears have a powerful sense of smell. That’s why bear-proof containers can be important to help deter them. 

“They have been out of hibernation for a little while those females are out with cubs, but now we’re kind of in that transition period where females are going to start kicking away their last year‘s cubs that we call yearlings or juveniles,” said Janelle Musser, a Black Bear Support Biologist with the TWRA. “There right now in sort of a natural food shortage so berries aren’t ripe yet it’s not quite that time, so most of what they’re eating right now is going to be insects, maybe a little bit of vegetation, whatever they can find.”

This could include your food. 

“If you live in an area with bears or you think there’s been a bear around, you’ve heard from neighbors you may be seeing signs, securing garbage, birdseed, pet food, is really that first step,” Musser said.

She said to make sure your car, camper, and home doors are locked and store food in a bear-resistant container. You can also carry bear spray with you if you’re camping or hiking. 

“Really if you’re seeing a bear and it’s down the trail from you, you just kind of want to alert your presence maybe clap your hands talk to yourself, and just kind of slowly move away and give that bear space and time to move on.”

TWRA said they also are hearing about bears attacking livestock. They say that’s very normal behavior if they can’t find enough berries and other natural resources for nutrition. 

They suggest using electric fences to help deter bears from livestock. 

Musser added that the bear population is continuing to grow and so is the amount of people coming to our area.

More from reporter Kristen Gallant

“There are more people moving to East Tennessee. We are building in places, but we also probably have some more bears than we had before. Like I said, those juveniles are dispersing, but they’re also in that natural food shortage. Using that sense of smell to seek out those easy food sources, so it’s really not one clear reason. It’s probably a combination of all of those things.”

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