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By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

Tennessee’s black bears are growing in number and expanding their territory, becoming routinely sighted in Middle Tennessee.

If they are not already in Trousdale County, they soon will be.

With bears more abundant and on the move, and with more people involved in summertime outdoors activities, encounters are increasingly likely.

For that reason, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has issued a “bear advisory” about how to deal with the situation.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Hedgecoth
Bears, such as this one in a backyard near Crossville, are becoming common sights in Middle Tennessee.

For starters, the TWRA warns against leaving any sort of food around a home or campsite that could attract a wandering bear. That includes pet food and garbage.

When camping, all food should be secured and stored in containers away from the campsite. Cooking grills should be as kept and clean and grease-free as possible, and all garbage disposed in bins.

Fish should never be cleaned around a campsite, and fish remains disposed of well away from the site.

The TWRA warns to never approach a bear that appears docile, because the animals are unpredictable. If one is feeding or has food stored in the area, it can be particularly dangerous. Bears are known to attack to protect a food source.

Be wary when hiking through an area in which berries are abundant. Berries are a primary food source in the summer, and bears gravitate to those areas.

When hiking, be aware of the surroundings, and if a feeding bear is encountered, give it a wide berth. Some hikers blow whistles when walking in bear country to make their presence known.

Also this time of year newborn cubs are starting to wander and explore their surroundings, and the mother bear is extremely protective. If a cub is encountered, depart the area immediately.

Never approach a cub or try to photograph one up-close; the action could be interpreted as threating by a nearby mother.

Although unprovoked black bear attacks are rare, they do occur, often with tragic results.

If a bear is spotted around a home, residents are advised to go indoors and contact local law enforcement officials. Neighbors should be alerted to the presence of the bear.

Bears are protected except during hunting season. Even in-season, a bear can be killed only in specified areas by a licensed hunter. Otherwise, it is illegal to harm a bear.

The only exception is if a bear presents a clear and obvious threat – which is rarely the case. Simply being frightened by the appearance of a bear is not considered a “threat,” and harming it can result in a citation, fine and court costs.

The only way to control the bear population is through regulated hunting. A record 759 bears were taken during Tennessee’s past hunting season.

Still, the number of bears continues to grow, due in part to TWRA management policies, including cracking down on poaching and the protection of cubs.

Ready or not, they are coming soon to a neighborhood near you.