Neighbors in one Sevier County community say they're upset and want justice after someone shot and killed a mama bear, leaving her three cubs fending for themselves.
The rules are clear in the village of Cobbly Nob: no speeding, and no hunting bears.
"We love them," said Ann Michels, who has lived in the village for more than a decade." We love them just like we love the wild turkeys, and I'm not quite as fond of the raccoons, but we like our animals tremendously. That's why we live here. It's part of the environment."
The neighbors see bears all the time and even get to the know the families. That's why they were so upset when one mama bear disappeared about a month ago.
Soon after, the story about what may have happened began to circulate in the community.
Neighbors were hearing that a man walking his dog encountered the bear and her cubs. The bear reared up, so the man returned his dogs to his house, grabbed his gun, and then returned to shoot the bear.
"This is not bear season, and hunting is not allowed in Cobbly Nob," said Karen Helme, a neighbor and president of Friends of the Newport Animal Shelter in neighboring Cocke County. "So this person was wrong on at least two counts."
Word about the incident quickly spread, catching the attention of an animal cruelty investigator in Cocke County who is a past president of Helme's organization, Friends of the Newport Animal Shelter.
"I don't have any forgiveness for him," Robert Brannon said. "I'd like to put him in jail. These sort of things, by firing them up, send a message to other people that this kind of conduct is deplorable and you can't do this sort of thing."
Brannon said, as an animal cruelty investigator, he's vested with certain powers, and he plans to explore his options in moving the investigation forward.
TWRA did send an officer to Cobbly Nob to not only retrieve the body of the bear but also to take a statement from the man accused in the shooting.
That man talked to 10News but did not want to go on camera. He said he let his two Corgis out of the house and soon after heard some commotion, and the dogs darted out of sight. He grabbed a .22, which he says he keeps by the door for protection, and then walked outside to see a mama bear take a swipe at one of his dogs and then charge toward him.
That's when he shot the bear in the leg. He said the mama bear walked down the hill behind the home and her cub soon followed. He said he did not believe he killed the bear and saw only one cub, so he's not even sure the bear he injured was the same bear that was later found dead.
An assistant district attorney tells 10News that charged would only be filed if they're warranted, and the office has yet to receive a report from the TWRA.