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TWRA: Feeding a bear leads to nothing but trouble

The agency is offering tips to discourage bad behavior as bears venture out more in the spring.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Seeing a black bear in the East Tennessee woods can be thrilling.

Seeing a black bear tear up your car, your camper or your rental cabin because you've left food out is not so fun.

But that's what can happen when people are careless with their garbage or grill, or when they leave food out thinking -- mistakenly -- that they're doing a wild animal a favor.

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Credit: TWRA
Officers with TWRA and UTPD with a black bear tranquilized on the University of Tennessee campus.

With more bears stirring in East Tennessee this spring, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is repeating the old adage, "A fed bear is a dead bear."

Bears that get used to eating food left out by humans inevitably end up becoming accustomed to being around populations. That means they get into more trouble that can bring harm to them and potentially to people around them.

“TWRA’s goal is to help people understand their behavior often causes nuisance issues," big game biologist Ben Layton said in a TWRA news release. "If we change these behaviors, everyone is safe."

Visitors who don't know better regularly are surprised when a bear tears up a garbage can or climbs into an unlocked car or even slips into a cabin because they detect food. Give a bear a chance, and they'll take it.

Credit: WBIR
A bear and her cubs stop traffic while crossing Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River gorge. Image by Susan Detwiler.

TWRA says there are simple steps that visitors and regular residents alike can take to discourage bad bear behavior:

  • Never Feed or Approach Bears. Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!
  • Secure Food, Garbage and Recycling. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids or garbage.
  • Remove Bird Feeders. When Bears Are Active Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.
  • Never Leave Pet Food Outdoors. Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it.
  • Clean & Store Grills. Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.
  • Alert Neighbors to Bear Activity. See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share information on how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.

You can learn more by going here.