BY KEN LITTLE
Pork is definitely on the menu for Greeneville's hungry wandering bear.
The animal, who has made himself at home in several Greeneville and Tusculum neighborhoods, has been spending his nights recently in the woods behind Stan's Bar-B-Q restaurant, at 2620 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy.
Restaurant owner Stan Fortner said a 50-gallon drum full of fat, scrap and bones is stored behind the business next to a Dumpster.
"I came in Monday and that barrel was turned over and it was empty and it was never turned over before," Fortner said.
The scrap is regularly picked up by Carolina By-Products, but the bear got there first on Monday, Fortner said.
The bear, described by wildlife officials as a pre-adolescent animal that was recently weaned from its mother, made a return visit to the restaurant Tuesday night.
Employees were very careful about going out to their cars after work, Fortner said.
"The cars are parked in the back of the building and that's where the Dumpster is and they didn't take the trash out (last night). They didn't put it out until this morning," Fortner said. "Obviously (Tuesday night) the bear left and they left the restaurant."
State Wildlife Officer James McAfee said last week the bear "is fat and slick and he's just come off of his mother" and "trying to learn how to do business and he's going to follow his nose to a food source."
Pork and beef is cooked at night at Stan's "and I'm sure he can smell that," Fortner said.
The fat may be sealed in a Dumpster for several days until the bear decides to move on, Fortner said.
"We may have to put it in the Dumpster until they get the bear out of the way," he said.
In nearly 21 years of business, Fortner said he has only seen a bear once on the property. He saw a cub running across the parking lot about 10 years ago, but the animal was nowhere near the fat barrel, he said.
"I'm sure he put some fat on him as far as the fat in the barrel," Fortner said of his newest customer.
The bear has also recently been seen in yards along South Rufe Taylor Road, Greeneville police said.
State wildlife officials have said the bear will move along when it runs out of food sources.
It's apparently the same animal that was sighted several weeks ago in Tusculum near the Greene Valley Developmental Center, McAfee said.
"It started out in Tusculum and Tusculum took care of (the problem) by eliminating food sources and he moved on," he said. Stans is about half a mile from the Tusculum City Limits.
Unusually warm weather in March brought bears out of hibernation about a month early, before natural food sources like fruit and vegetables are available, McAfee said.