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Bear population rising in Tenn.: Bear wreaks havoc in Johnson City

According to an April 10 report on the Johnson City Press, a large black bear has made an appearance in a Johnson City neighborhood, leaving destruction and fear behind him. Doug and Delores Hammitt live in a neighborhood near Woodland Elementary School, and they want to be sure that the word gets out that this bear is still on the loose. They notified the authorities after the bear broke the window out of their SUV, busted fences made of steel and wood and carried off a large trashcan full of birdseed.

Leaving a path of destruction, where will the black bear go next?
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The Hammitts contacted the Johnson City Police, Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. At the time of the above article's publication, there were no searches underway to find the large bear. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has produced a document about black bear management in which they explain that the bear population has reached a historic high, the most in probably 150 years.

When contacted by the Johnson City Press for this article, TWRA Officer David Crum seemed quite casual about the appearance of bears in Johnson City, particularly in the area off of West Market Street where the Hammitts live. He stressed that there had been no reports of aggressive bears this year. (This, of course, brings to mind the question of past year’s incidents of bear aggression.) He reiterated the often-given advice to residents about being careful about leaving food outside, which is good to remember for several reasons, not only regarding bears. “This is bear country,” he said.

The efforts to protect the black bear population in Tennessee have obviously been very successful, and there are now efforts underway to cull some of the overflow of the bears. A loosening of laws regarding bear hunting has been part of the move. The issue of what to do when bears and humans collide is now more problematic than it has been in years past. It may be that the overabundance of black bears in Tennessee may require some additional response to residents’ complaints.

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