DENSO bear relocated in Cherokee National Forest

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- DENSO Manufacturing sent a letter to employees saying the bear captured on site was awake and healthy Thursday morning.

According to TWRA, the bear was released successfully into the Cherokee National Forest on Thursday. Officials said the bear is old and weighs nearly 400 pounds. It was released into the forest with an ear tag. TWRA said officials they used "aversive conditioning" to stop future nuisance issues.

"Animal control arrived on site and safely captured the bear," the letter read. "Animal Control has reported that the bear is awake and healthy this morning, although not very happy to be in his current enclosure."

Tuesday evening employees received an initial warning about a wild bear roaming around factory buildings. According to the most recent announcement, the bear entered plant 201.

"A bear has been spotted in and around DENSO property," the warning read. "Please keep all plant doors closed and use caution when walking through outdoor areas. While the bear has not been aggressive thus far, it is a wild animal and must be treated as such."

Wednesday morning photos of a bear inside the factory began circulating on social media.

On Wednesday night, DENSO said local authorities had captured the bear after it had been spotted on the property again Wednesday evening. Local authorities came to the site.

TWRA confirms the bear did enter the facility Tuesday night. They said the bear has been hanging around DENSO for several days. A wildlife officer was setting a trap in an attempt to capture it. TWRA said Blount County Animal Control was able to immobilize the bear with a dart. They reached out to TWRA dispatch to request the bear be put inside a live trap.

Employees of the company were surprised and nervous when they heard about the arrival of DENSO's 'visitor.'

Teresa Shinpaugh said, "It's mind-blowing. How did it get in there? What's it after? What's it looking for?

Zoo Knoxville's animal director, Phil Colclough, said he may have the answers to Shinpaugh's questions. "Bears are coming out of winter time, and they are really, really hungry. They are known to move 40 miles or mire beyond their home range."

Still, he said the bear going into DENSO wasn't normal bear activity. "This is probably an animal that smelled a dumpster that was left open, maybe a pack of peanut butter crackers in the break room as the case may be," Cloclough said.

Maryville Police Department initially responded to the plant after the bear had already exited the plant of its own accord. Police Chief Tony Crisp said police spotted the bear in a wooded area when they arrived on the scene.

"Usually if you just let [a bear] be, they'll move along on their own."