Wildlife agents reveal black bear matrix

(WVLT) -- Following the recent euthanization of three bears near the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency released their guide to handling bear behavior.

TWRA's Matt Cameron said the agency's bear matrix has been peer reviewed and is based on common sense, experience, and science. The guide allows wildlife agents to cross assess the bear type and feeding source along with its behavior and level of conflict to determine what action should be taken to resolve a bear-related incident.

TWRA broke down the following types and levels of conflicts for WVLT News:

Type A - Feeding on natural foods in bear habitat.
Type B - Feeding on natural foods adjacent to bear habitat
Type C - Feeding on natural foods in a residential area
Type D - Occasional feeding on unnatural foods in a remote area (campground).
Type E - Feeding on unnatural foods in a residential area adjacent to bear habitat
Type F - Frequently feeding on unnatrual foods in a residential area not adjacent to bear habitat

Level 1 - Wary of humans
Level 2 - Indifferent to humans
Level 3 - Assertive/bold behavior and/or property damage
Level 4 - Human injury/death and/or injured bear

Authorities decide what type and level the bear is on at the time of the reported incident, then take the actions suggested at the bottom of the graph. The actions range from monitoring to euthanization. TWRA's Matt Cameron said working outside of the black bear matrix is only allowable with a supervisor's approval.

TWRA said the bear problems stem from people intentionally feeding the animals, showing them where to easily find food.

"The actions of irresponsible people are the reason these bears had to be killed," TWRA's Matt Cameron said. "They are killing these bears by acting irresponsibly."

Park rangers said people are not allowed to feed or purposefully get closer than 50 yards of a bear or elk. Under federal law, getting an unsafe distance could result in a $5,000 fine or a trip to jail for up to six months.

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