Three bears visit woman's yard and porch


star staff

  Jan Fredericks is used to seeing wild animals tracking through her backyard which borders the Cherokee National Forest, but she never expected to see a black bear, much less three of them.
  Fredericks has lived in the house for more than 27 years and doesn't remember seeing any bears before, but in the past two weeks she has spotted three black bears on her property and even has damage done to her barn by the hungry animals. Fredericks, 120 Fredericks Rd., is used to deer, squirrels, and even the occasional raccoon wandering into her yard, but the she is not displaying the welcome banner for the three bears.
  "I don't mind the other animals, but bears are another story," she said. A close encounter came a few nights ago when the dogs' barking alerted her mother to something happening outside. When she opened the sliding glass door and turned on the porch light, the bear was staring at her from the other side of the screen door. Frederick's mother said the dogs had pinned the bear on the porch and would not let him leave. But when the porch light came on, the bear was startled enough to jump over the porch banister and flee into the safety of the Cherokee National Forest. Her mother did not make an estimate on the bear's weight but did say it was larger than the labrador-shepherd mix dog.
  Frederick's property is located a few miles across the Unicoi County/Carter County line just outside of Hampton. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials directed her to Unicoi County Resource Officer Victor Deaton. He advised her to gather all food left for outside domestic animals, trash and other easy food sources.
  He also said the two smaller bears were probably cubs of the larger bear and are being weaned and trained to hunt for food. Since the cat and dog food are easy sources, the bears keep coming back.
  The bears have already damaged the back of her barn by tearing through a panel and eating all the pet food she had stored in there. According to Fredericks, the wildlife officer said the bears are probably "out of food in the mountains and that's when they will come down."
  She plans to clean out all the food she has in the barn and repair it. She has also alerted her neighbors to the problem and will tell them to take the same precautions.
  Fredericks had only spoken with the Unicoi County officer since she lives on the fringe of the county line. Carter County Resource Officer Dennis Ward said Fredericks had followed the proper channels for resolving the problem. The TWRA hotline will direct callers to an officer servicing the county where the person resides.
  Ward's advice for anyone who sees a bear is to remember that sightings are not uncommon, but if a bear keeps coming back to a food source, then the first step is to remove the source. "Pretty much, the only reason they will come is proximity of your house. Keep trash where the bear can't access it. Don't feed pets more than they can eat at one time," Ward said.
  Even bird feeders are considered "wildlife feeders." The bears will come back, even after the easy food sources are removed, until they break their pattern. He said during this part of the year the reoccurrence of bears coming out of the woodlands will begin to decline.
  Ward did not speak to Frederick's situation since she had already contacted Deaton and he was unfamiliar with the problem. He did say that loud noises would help scare away the animals. Using bottle rockets, firecrackers or any type of harassment noise will help keep an animal away. In the event that a bear is not deterred by the previous recommendations, the agency can trap the animal and release it back into the wild.