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Increased bear sightings in East Tennessee prompt excitement, caution

Are you seeing more black bears or are you just in the right place at the right time in East Tennessee?
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 11:38 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Are you seeing more black bears or are you just in the right place at the right time in East Tennessee?

For some, like Nathan Floyd in Sevierville, it might seem like bears are crawling out of the woodwork.

For others, like Brooke Davis who was in Gatlinburg for her honeymoon, spotting a bear can seem like a surprise gift.

No matter how seeing them makes you feel, it’s that time of year for seeing them more as they prepare to hibernate by chowing down on acorns and other foods.

“There’s certainly more bear activity this time of year as bears are preparing to go into their winter dens,” Matt Cameron with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said. He added that, in general, there are more bears out there. “The Smokies and National Forest can’t hold all the bears, so at some point, they spill out onto private lands, and we just see them more and more.”

The lush landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains allows them to thrive and grow, and Cameron says the population has been expanding for at least 15 years. He said bear hunting regulations have changed over the last years to allow for the growth. “That tells you just how healthy our population is," Cameron said.

While a sighting might be old news for residents or regular tourists, safety remains a top priority.

Cameron gave some tips on what to do when you encounter a bear: “By no means should you approach it or try to get your picture with it or feed it. You need to discourage it from being in your presence by yelling at it, by making yourself appear larger and making loud noises so that bear remains fearful of humans.”

Learn more about black bears in Tennessee here.

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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