(WBIR) Property owners for the first time in some East Tennessee counties may soon be able to hunt bears on their property.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is in the process finalizing a black bear management plan. Wildlilfe officals are proposing to have an archery-only hunting season for black bears found on private property.
Steve Salter of Oneida had a black bear roam through his yard in October 2013. Salter said he went outside one day and found the fence surrounding his chicken coop bent. When he checked his home surveillance video, Salter found a rather large black bear had wandered through his yard and become intrigued with the Salters' satellite dish.
"We kind of thought why didn't he go for the chickens. I guess he's not much of a chicken lover. Maybe he's more of a beef eater, but he did eat the chicken food. He ate their food and took off and decided there wasn't a picnic basket in there to mess with so he left," said Salter.
TWRA said more people living on the Cumberland Plateau are reporting seeing black bears on their property. The wildlife agency conducted a survey in the summer of 2012 and found there's an estimated 189 bears living within the Big South Fork National Park area, as well as on surrounding private lands. That's a big dramatic increase from the approximately 14 adult females and 16 cubs that were released at both Tenn. and Ky. release sites at Big South Fork National Park in 1996 and 1997.
A statement by TWRA reads:
"This year's proposal will be to have an archery only hunt (no dogs) in all 5 hunt zones from September 27 through October 24. This hunt would be concurrent with the first 4 weeks of our deer archery season. The proposal would allow for 15 new counties to be opened for archery still hunting during this period. The biggest change will be added a hunt in the new areas of BHZT and BHZ4. The BHZT (bear hunt zone transitional) counties would include portions of Hamilton, Jefferson, and McMinn counties, Bradley, Loudon, Knox, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, and Hawkins. In BHZ4 (bear hunt zone 4) encompasses the Cumberland Plateau area, and the proposal is to open 5 counties for the archery only still hunt. These counties include Morgan, Fentress, Scott (West of Hwy 27), and portions of Pickett (East of Hwy 111) and Cumberland (North of I40). The proposal is to hunt private land only."
Wildlife officials are expected to vote on the proposal at the May 22 - 23, 2014 TWRA commission meeting.