BY KEN LITTLE
A hungry black bear made a return appearance Tuesday night in a Greeneville neighborhood, and had wandered back off into the woods by this morning.
Authorities strongly advise residents of the Harrison Heights and Oak Hills neighborhoods to remove all food sources from their yards to help convince the freeloading bear to move on.
Bear sightings were reported about 8 p.m. in the 1600 block of Crestwood Drive and at 2:46 a.m. in the 200 block of Pinecrest Drive, where an overturned trash can was found by police Officer Eddie Key.
"It made a mess," Key said in a report.
Kim Gibson, a Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) officer, was called to the neighborhood Tuesday night.
Gibson did not make contact with the wandering bear, but saw plenty of evidence the animal had been there recently.
"More than anything I came out to take a look around to see if it had a food source, which it did. If it has a reliable food source, it goes back to the same place," said Gibson, who works out of Unicoi County.
The large bear, which has been active in the Greeneville neighborhood for several days, has been feeding on corn left in yards for deer, seeds in birdfeeders and cat food left on the decks of houses.
"I advised them to eliminate the food source, to not put out corn or seed, to pull their birdfeeders in and be sure to not leave the garbage out," Gibson said.
TWRA spokesman James McAfee reiterated the importance of removing food sources as a way to encourage the bear to move on.
EARLY BEAR SIGHTINGS
It's not unusual to have bear sightings in East Tennessee, but it is unusual to have sightings this early in April, McAfee said.
TWRA biologists have said that consistently warm weather in March prompted many bears to come out of hibernation early and begin their search for food.
Another series of bear sightings about two weeks ago in Tusculum, near the Greene Valley Developmental Center, is believed to be the same animal.
"We highly recommend removing the food sources from outside one's home, such as birdfeeders, outdoor pet food containers and garbage cans," Gibson said.
McAfee said several bear sightings have been reported to the TWRA in recent weeks throughout the northeast Tennessee region, as the mammals leave the mountains to search for food in more populated areas.
Do not approach a bear, authorities caution.
If a bear is sighted, call the Greeneville Police Department at 639-7111 or the Tusculum Police Department at 638-6211.
Greeneville Sun General Manager Steve Harbison contributed to this report.