A black bear was found dead recently on Wilcox Drive. Fred Hilton, senior naturalist at Bays Mountain, said the bear was likely male, and was either out looking for food or a female bear. Photo contributed by Debi Tabor.
KINGSPORT — It’s not uncommon to see a dead opossum, squirrel or groundhog lying in or on the side of the road in Northeast Tennessee. But a black bear?
Apparently that’s what happened recently when a black bear was found dead on Wilcox Drive.
Fred Hilton, senior naturalist at Bays Mountain Park, said the bear was likely male, and was either out looking for food or a female bear.
“It’s not uncommon. They’re very adaptable, intelligent, and do fairly well in urban areas,” Hilton said. “They tend to be more active at night, but (at Bays Mountain Park) I’ve seen bears almost every time of the day, even during the midday when you wouldn’t normally see one.”
Black bears are indigenous to Tennessee and are mostly found along the eastern border of the state with high densities in the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Hilton said the average black bear stands 28 to 34 inches at the shoulder, around 6 feet in length, with males weighing up to 300 pounds and females ranging from 200 to 225 pounds.
“In the wild, generally speaking, black bears are not as big as you would imagine,” Hilton said.
Five to six years ago, Hilton said, our region experienced a peak in the black bear population, but that now the population has returned to normal levels.
“I haven’t seen any this year, which by this time of year is pretty uncommon,” Hilton said. “But I think it’s normal. Like most animals, populations are cyclic and (five to six years ago) happened to be a peak year. We’re probably more in a normal pattern right now.”
June and July are the months when male black bears are more transient, looking to mate and looking for food, Hilton said, whereas females tend to remain within a certain territory.
Good advice to reduce your chances of a black bear wandering onto your property is to make sure the garbage is put away, possibly in an out-building, and to keep the pet food (dog, cat and bird) put up at night.
“Generally if you have a problem with a bear, it’s over food,” Hilton said. “Managing human food is the best way to manage bears.”
And if the bear isn’t causing damage or threatening harm to anyone, Hilton said he does not see a reason for a person to do anything. Black bears are not that aggressive, are very predictable animals and normally do not bother people, Hilton said.
“If you don’t do anything out of ordinary, it’s not going to do anything crazy either,” Hilton said. “Just enjoy the opportunity to see it.”
Hilton adds if the bear is causing problems or damage, people should contact the TWRA. If it is an immediate threat, call 911.