TWRA gives advice on what to do in wild animal encounters

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is sharing some refresher tips after there were more than a few wild animal encounters reported and shared across social media this week.

Wild animal encounters are not all that uncommon here in East Tennessee, but for those visiting from out of state, they can be shocking or eye-opening.

Encounters with wild animals appeared to be on the rise this week — from a baby bobcat turning up at a Dollar General in Martin, Ky. to a widely viewed encounter with a cougar on a Utah trail and a black bear making a guest appearance at an Anakeesta restaurant.

Matt Cameron with TWRA says if you do experience an encounter, don’t panic.

“You don’t want to turn and run from wild animals or even domesticated animals because it triggers a predator prey response that most animals still have inside them,” Cameron said.

Instead, Cameron suggests that if possible, intimidate the animal by standing your ground, make yourself big and be loud.

But if the animal keeps coming — create distance, while maintaining eye contact.

If an encounter occurs while indoors, Cameron says to get out, leave the animal and let it have space.

But keep in mind — “Always leave it an exit. Don’t enclose it in there because they can become very frightened and they can really destroy things trying to get out of there,” he said.

The bottom line with wild animal encounters is to be smart and do what’s best for you and the animal — one major thing is to never feed wild animals.

“If you care about black bears in East Tennessee… Don’t feed them. don’t approach them. Don’t allow them to have access to any human foods or pet food or bird seed because it’s only going to result in a bad situation for that bear.”

Bear encounters are not that uncommon in our region, Cameron says, adding that 99% of the time these encounters end peacefully with the bear and humans going separate ways.

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