The National Park Service said this year could be a busy one for bears in and around East Tennessee and Southeast Kentucky.
Rangers at the Cumberland Gap National Park believe the creatures might wander into residential areas to look for food on a greater scale.
They say it's because the fall season was particularly hard on bears. Typically, during that time of year, they will stock up on acorns and nuts to build up their fat reserves before hibernation.
More Information: "Be Bear Aware" Campaign
But, the acorn mass crop across the eastern seaboard was low. Park Biologist Jenny Beeler said they were left with less food to eat.
"The acorn mass crop was the lowest it's ever been since we started keeping track in 2007," she said.
As a result, more bears went to sleep on empty stomachs and now they are waking up hungry. Park Ranger Scott Teodorski said it's all happening at a time where there's not a lot of food for them to even eat.
"As they start to go for the food, and they're a little more desperate for the food, they start to do things they normally wouldn't do," he said. "They start to get a little bit brave."
Rangers say in the next few weeks we should expect to see more bears in places we typically don't, including residential neighborhoods.
VIDEO: PSA produced by Cumberland Gap National Park
The Cumberland Gap National Park said it has talked about "hazing" bears at night to make them fear humans. That practice would involve the use of beanbag rounds, rubber bullets and loud noises.
The park has also put together a media campaign to teach locals about what they can do to keep bears out of their neighborhoods.
"It's about getting our community involved to help them help us to all help the bears," said Teodorski.
The park shared these suggestions it got from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as to how you handle bears in your community.
The best way to encourage the bear not to return is to remove the food source. Do not store household trash, or anything that smells like food, in vehicles, on porches or decks. Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement. Take your garbage to the dump frequently.
- If you have a trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.
- Take down your bird feeder for 3-4 weeks after the bear visits.
- Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and extremely efficient proven deterrent to bears, around dumpsters, gardens, beehives, or other potential food sources.
- If addressed quickly, this situation can be resolved almost immediately after you remove the food source.
- Sometimes, the bear may return searching for food, but after a few failed attempts to find it, will leave your property.