Bad News for Bears

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Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - Bad news for bears could mean bad news for you.

A surprise spring freeze is making it tough for them to find food.

And that's bringing them into your backyard.

It was ten years ago when there was a large failure for both berries and acorns which prompted more than triple the harvesting of nuisance bears.

If this year proves similar, officials warn bears could be on the prowl for food all year long.

Mark Martin walks his dog everyday at his Gatlinburg home....but just this week he got a little surprise. "This bear was huge compared to what we've seen and not afraid at all. Usually I can scare them off."

Wildlife officials say bears are now coming out of their dens, finding their way into neighborhoods.

"This is historically a time of low food availability and we do have nuisance bears out there," TWRA Biologist David Brandenburg.

And some are causing trouble so wildlife officials are now trapping nuisance bears.

"Bears tearing up hot tub covers. Bears getting in garbage, bird feeders. I had one lady call and a bear was on top of her truck," says Mitch Clure, a TWRA Bear Officer.

The recent cold snap that caused major damage to area berry farms is also believed to have caused major problems in the wild berry population, a staple for bears.

"Our nuisance complaints or calls coming into the office about bears is going to increase and we'll see that until about July," Brandenburg says.

But the most critical is the acorn crop for the fall. Brandenburg estimates the cold has affected a lot of the acorns at the lower elevations. "Bear movements are going to increase and you've going to see an increase in harvest and also an increase in non-mortality so it could have major impacts."

So like Mark Martin, people may be seeing a lot of brave bears this year, "There in momma and daddy's fountain at the next house the bear was standing there getting him a drink."

Here are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with bears:

  • Don't feed bears.
  • Keep garbage inaccessible to bears.
  • April through january, avoid bird feeders.
  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Do not put any food in compost piles.
  • Keep your cooking grills clean.