Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

April 4, 2012

There is a bear in the Glade — he’ll probably stay

CROSSVILLE — Say hello to your new neighbor…the guy next door can really be a bear sometimes…in fact, he is a bear!

Over the past several weeks a black bear, or maybe more than one, has been hanging around Fairfield Glade. This isn’t unexpected or even unusual. There was one spotted several times last year, and a few years ago there were muddy bear tracks all through my neighborhood. I believe they are here to stay.

There are permanent populations of bears in the Smoky Mountains, 80 miles to our east, and also in the Big South Fork, 50 miles to our north. In recent years, bears have moved into the 80,000 acre Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, which shares a border with Fairfield Glade. I expect that bears will be more and more of a common occurrence in our neighborhoods here in Fairfield Glade.

About two weeks ago, two of my neighbors here in the Northridge area were walking their dog in the woods when they surprised a bear on the trail. The bear did what they often do when they encounter people…it ran in the opposite direction. In the past week, the bear has been raiding bird feeders at some homes that border Catoosa Wildlife Management area on the north edge of the Glade.

Should you be afraid? What should we do? Well, you shouldn’t be afraid. Many, many communities all over the country live safely and happily next door to bears. The folks in Gatlinburg probably have as high a population of black bears in their backyard as anywhere in the country. But, just like in Gatlinburg, there are things that all of us in Fairfield Glade need to do to keep the bears and the folks safe.

You may have heard the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” This is the most important thing to remember when living in bear territory. The number one and the only thing that will cause a bear to visit your yard is food. Bears are big and they need food…lots of it. They have a nose that is seven times more sensitive than a bloodhound, so if there is food in your yard, a bear will find it. Once bears learn to associate our yards with food, the trouble begins. Eliminate the food and you eliminate the potential for trouble.

Bears love birdseed. The bear in Fairfield Glade last week was raiding bird feeders. The birds can get along just fine without our help, especially this time of year, since most birds, even many seed-eating birds, switch to insects because growing babies need the protein of insects. A barbeque grill smells great to a bear. A few years ago, a bear knocked over the grill on my neighbor’s porch to lick the grease off the grates. Garbage doesn’t need to be out until 8 a.m., so there is no need to leave it out overnight. If you are feeding corn for the deer, you are not only causing the deer harm, you are asking for a bear to be killed if it gets too comfortable around humans. If you are leaving food out for your cat or feral cats…expect a bear instead.

Now, you might think it would be real cool to put some food out so you could get a chance to see the bear. But if that bear, because of you, has to be euthanized, or just as bad, if it loses fear and harms a human, you probably wouldn’t feel too good about that.

If you see a bear, keep your distance. Talk to the bear, back up and give it space, and never run. In most cases, if you run into a bear you will be lucky if you see a glimpse of its backside as it runs away from a scary human.

Someone asked me why Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) doesn’t just relocate the bear away from our neighborhoods. They won’t do that unless the bear becomes a danger or an extreme nuisance. Even then, a bear that is not afraid of humans because of folks who feed them or allow them to get food regularly, will possibly have to be killed, rather than relocated.

So, welcome to bear country. Please, keep all bear-attracting food and garbage inside. Let’s keep the bears in the woods and alive. I think that it is great that we have bears, coyotes, bobcats, and all of the other wildlife right in our backyard. I am happy to have a bear move in next door anytime. Now, if only those ticks and chiggers would  move to Michigan or New Jersey or somewhere.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com.

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