Traffic was down to one lane in each direction just east of the traffic light while police were “bear-sitting” the injured animal in the median as they waited for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers to arrive.
The accident occurred shortly before noon in the eastbound lane of 11-W between the Hammond Avenue and Independence Avenue intersections.
The motorist reportedly continued on toward Kingsport after the collision, and police were notified of the injured bear by a witness.
The motorist returned to the scene about a half-hour after police arrived, and he was cited for failure to immediately notify police of an accident.
MCPD Police Chief Jeff Jackson said the bear was limping and visibly injured, and at one point it lay down on its back on the concrete gutter in the median and stopped moving for awhile.
The nearest TWRA officer was in Morristown, so the MCPD blocked both inside lanes of 11-W in case the bear bolted and tried to keep it corralled in the median.
Jackson said he was concerned that the bear would die before the TWRA arrived. He got a bowl of water, pushed it toward the injured animal with a plank of wood, and the bear drank while they were waiting.
“We just tried to keep it calm so it wouldn’t run out into the other lanes of oncoming traffic," Jackson said. “It looked like it was getting weaker and weaker, but when the TWRA got there, they had a fight getting it into the truck. A couple of us had been standing a few feet away from it, giving it water — like we tell the public not to do — but I hate to see an animal suffer.”
Jackson added, “But that thing was full of fight still when they got that catch pole out and put it in their truck. It was fighting all the way.”
TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron told the Times-News that the bear was retrieved by TWRA officers Chris Seay and Cody Young, and as of late Tuesday afternoon it was still alive.
“They said it is a weaned yearling male and local city employees had kept it cool by pouring water on it,” Cameron said. “When Officer Seay got a hold of it with a catch pole, it showed great vigor, which gives us hope that it will survive the injuries and be placed at the Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend. They are headed to the University of Tennessee veterinarian hospital to get it evaluated.”
If the bear doesn’t survive, it will be placed in a TWRA freezer and mounted at a later time for public education.
Cameron noted that yearling males are the most common bears seen during the spring and summer and are responsible for the majority of nuisance calls.
“They have been weaned by their mother, who has chased them away to ensure genetic variability across the species,” Cameron said. “The older male black bears won’t let them hang around in their territory either, so they are wandering around trying to establish their own territory and fill their bellies. Natural food availability is low until the summer berries ripen towards the end of the month and throughout the summer.”
As the bear population expands and their movements increase, local residents should expect to see them more often.
Although the first reaction of most people is to be fearful, Cameron said we should consider it a great privilege to see black bears, as their population has rebounded from only a few individuals in the mid 20th century to around 7,000 today.
“It is the responsibility of all Tennesseans and our visitors to keep bears wild and avoid habituating them to human foods,” he added.
When bears are seen in your area, keep garbage indoors or secured in bear-resistant containers.
Remove birdfeeders in the spring and summer, and do not feed outside pets more than can be consumed in one meal.
When habituated to human foods, black bears lose their natural fear of people and become a threat to human safety. Once this happens, black bears often have to be destroyed.
Research has shown that habituated bears that are trapped and relocated are usually hit by vehicles trying to return to the place where they were captured or will exhibit the same nuisance behavior in their new locations.
Cameron noted that the old saying about black bears is true: “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
How to bear proof your property
courtesy of the TWRA
Do not give your pets more food than they can eat, or the bears will finish it for them.
Only feed pets a portion that will be completely consumed during each meal and securely store pet foods.
Do not feed birds or other wildlife where bears are active.
Do not store food, garbage or recyclables in areas accessible to bears.
Keep grills and smokers clean and stored in a secure area when not in use.
1. While black bears are usually tolerant of humans, they should always be treated as wild animals, whether in residential or backcountry areas.
2. Black bears are rarely aggressive toward people and typically go out of their way to avoid contact; however, as human development continues and bear numbers increase, occasional interactions will be unavoidable.
3. Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behavior can be unpredictable.
4. Black bears are very curious animals, and this should not be confused with aggression.
5. Startled bears will often confront intruders by turning sideways to appear larger, make woofing and teeth clacking sounds, salivate, lay their ears back and slap the ground with their paws. These are warnings for you to leave the area.
6. Bears will often stand on their hind legs to get a better view or a better sense of hearing and smelling.
Following these simple guidelines will minimize many unnecessary and potentially dangerous encounters
1. Never feed or approach bears!
2. If a bear approaches you in the wild, it is probably trying to assess your presence.
3. If you see a black bear from a distance, alter your route of travel, return the way you came or wait until it leaves the area.
4. Make your presence known by yelling and shouting at the bear in an attempt to scare it away.
5. If approached by a bear, stand your ground, raise your arms to appear larger, yell and throw rocks or sticks until it leaves the area.
6. When camping in bear country, keep all food stored in a vehicle and away from tents.
7. Never run from a black bear! This will often trigger its natural instinct to chase.
8. If a black bear attacks, fight back aggressively and do not play dead! Use pepper spray, sticks, rocks, or anything you can find to defend yourself. If cornered or threatened, bears may slap the ground, “pop” their jaws, or “huff” as a warning. If you see these behaviors, you are too close! Slowly back away while facing the bear at all times.
Notify the TWRA immediately if you witness aggressive behavior by black bears. The East Tennessee TWRA contact number is (800) 831-1174.
Black bears in town
As bear and human populations increase and more people move near public lands and bear-inhabited areas, bear-human interactions are increasing creating potentially dangerous situations. To learn more about coexisting with bears, go to the Bear Wise Website. You can also help prevent safety concerns by following these Bear Wise basics:
1. Never feed or approach bears.
2. Do not store food, garbage or other recyclables in areas accessible to bears.
3. Do not feed birds or other wildlife where bears are active.
4. Feed outdoor pets a portion size they will completely consume during each meal and securely store pet foods.
5. Keep grills and smokers clean and stored in a secure area when not in use.
6. Talk to family and neighbors when bear activity is occurring in your area.
7. What to do if a bear approaches you in town:
8. Bears will almost always find an escape route if they are left alone.
9. Shout and throw sticks or rocks in the vicinity of bear to encourage flight once an escape route has been established.
10. Females with cubs will often climb a tree for escape cover; never surround a tree holding any bear, especially a female with cubs!
11. Locate and remove the lure that caused the bear to come into your area. There is almost always a safe escape route when bears enter towns. Crowd control is the initial concern as the behavior of a cornered bear can be unpredictable.
12. Immediately report to the TWRA or local police any sightings of bears within areas of human population centers.