Black bear spotted at Riverfront Park

Matthew Lane • May 29, 2019 at 8:39 AM

KINGSPORT — The lunch crowd at Riverfront Seafood had a surprise visitor on Sunday.

Restaurant owner Russ Burdine said a black bear came running out of the woods behind the restaurant, went down the Greenbelt, jumped in the Holston and swam across the river toward Domtar Park.

“He was just out there splashing around on the edge of the rocks, then got up on the Greenbelt,” Burdine said. “Folks were staying back on the deck, taking pictures, just watching him swim and play.”

Black bears have been spotted near Riverfront Seafood in the past, but not by Burdine in the nearly two years since he’s owned the restaurant. Luckily, the bear never got too close to the restaurant or the patrons.

Customers and staff took pictures of the bear, who then shared them with Burdine, who in turn shared them with the Times-News.

If Bays Mountain Park Ranger Bob Culler had to guess, the bear made its way to the restaurant by coming down Reedy Creek and crossing over the river.

“I’ve heard of them being in Ridgefields, but not necessarily at the river. That’s a new one on me,” Culler said. “This time of year, a lot of what we’re seeing are young ones, where their mother has kicked them out and they’re looking for new territory.”

Earlier this year, Culler said, the park received a few calls from residents in Ridgefields about bears being in their neighborhood. Now, folks can expect to see black bears in some strange places as they look to expand their territory.

Once the bears settle into their new territories, the sightings will calm down, Culler said.

If you do happen to see a black bear, just stand back and take pictures from a respectful distance. Never approach a bear and never feed them, either by accident or on purpose, Culler said.

“It’s mostly a matter of having respect for them, knowing they’re there, and be aware that if you feed them, they and you both could get in trouble,” he said.

Here are some helpful tips when dealing with black bears.

— Leave them alone and give them plenty of space.

— The best way to scare off a bear is to make noise by banging on something or yelling.

— If you have a compost pile, pour some pickling lime on it. It helps contain the odors.

— Keep your trash cans locked in a garage or other building during the night.

— Pour a small amount of ammonia in the bottom of your garbage cans. The smell will help drive away bears and other animals.

— Bird feeders and pet food should be brought inside at night, and outdoor grills should be stored inside a garage.

— Try to locate gardens, orchards, pet kennels and beehives a safe distance from your house.

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