Officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency have verified that a black bear has been spotted in the Lake Glastonberry area of Fairfield Glade. Last week, TWRA dispatched personnel to employ negative reinforcement techniques intended to dissuade the bear from coming into people's yards. However, as long as there are food sources, such as bird feeders and trash cans, the bear is unlikely to leave the area.
"As long as it gets rewarded for being in backyards, it is going to stay," said TWRA Big Game Wildlife Biologist Ben Layton.
Normally, black bears are shy and fearful of humans. However, Layton warned that bears who find food sources left by humans learn to associate humans with food. Once that happens they lose their natural fear and can become aggressive. Bears that get habituated to human food are generally the ones that cause trouble. Once a bear becomes habituated it cannot be relocated because it has become a danger to humans and must be killed. Residents are urged not to leave any potential sources of food anywhere that bears can access.
Adult black bears in the Big South Fork area can weigh 75 to 250 pounds and rarely reach six feet tall when standing on their back legs. Their primary sources of food are nuts, acorns, berries, fruits, grasses and occasionally meat or carrion. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything that is readily available.
Back in the 1990s, black bears were reintroduced to the Cumberland Plateau after having almost been completely wiped out. Biologists released 14 female adult bears and 16 cubs in the Big South Fork area, which is about 50 miles north of Fairfield Glade. Estimates obtained from DNA sampling suggest there are currently more than 250 black bears on the Plateau.
Black bears are not normally a danger to humans or their pets. If you see a bear, don’t run. Talk to the bear and back away slowly. The best thing to do if a bear visits your yard is to keep your bird feeders inside for several days to a week. Bears love birdseed and hummingbird feeders are even better. With no human-supplied food, the bear will go back to eating wild food in the woods. There are plenty of insects to keep the birds supplied while your feeders are inside. Also, do not put your garbage out until the morning of pickup and do not, under any circumstances, feed bears.
TWRA is continuing to monitor the situation; if any of these animals continue to be a problem or become aggressive they will most likely be trapped and euthanized.
Don Hazel contributed to this report.