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Residents asked to be ‘bear aware’ as fall approaches

The bear population in Tennessee is now probably higher than it has been in the last 100-150 years, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Most of Tennessee’s bear habitat exists on public lands in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
As Tennessee’s human population increases, and more people move near public lands, bear interactions with humans will continue to increase.
Every year the TWRA receives hundreds of calls and complaints concerning black bears.
Most of the complaints are of bears raiding garbage containers, bird feeders, and pet food left outdoors. Some people even intentionally feed bears.
As a result of the improper storage of garbage, easy availability of bird seed, and the direct feeding of bears, animals often become habituated to humans and become a nuisance.
Nationwide bear management experience has shown the life expectancy of “nuisance” bears may be less than half of that of “wild” bears that do not have repeated contact with humans.
There are no other alternatives but to destroy bears that have become a threat to human safety.
As fall approaches, bears look for easier and more nutritious food sources than their naturally occurring foods, and the likelihood of bear sightings may increase.
The TWRA encourages residents to educate themselves by being “bear aware.”
Help keep communities safe by preserving the “wild” nature of bears by following these few simple tips:
• Do not feed bears;
• Store garbage in bear-proof containers or in a manner that is inaccessible to bears;
• Do not feed birds between April and January when bears are most active or take feeders inside at night;
• Keep pet food indoors and feed pets in the house or garage;
• Do not add food to your compost piles;
• Keep cooking grills clean and stored indoors when not in use.
TWRA believes that bears and humans can coexist.
Often all that is required to prevent bear-human conflicts is to simply stop feeding bears, properly store garbage, remove bird feeders, and/or keep pet food indoors.
For more information or technical assistant regarding black bears in Tennessee, visit www.twraregion4.org or contact the TWRA region IV office at 587-7037.