COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - You might think of them in the woods, but the rising
number of black bears in Tennessee is forcing many of them into our back yards.
Less than a week ago, a Cookeville family spotted a black bear near the area
children normally play.
Surrounded by woods, ponds and lakes, the area of Cookeville near Monterey
is no stranger to wildlife.
Sherry Gantt has lived in the area nearly her entire life and she says
hearing about a bear is not uncommon, but reality hit when her neighbor saw a
black bear in her yard.
"I didn't really believe her," said Mr. Smith about his wife who
spotted the black bear. "She said it's a bear, and I really didn't believe
her. I kind of laughed at her until I turned around and sure enough, it was a
Mr. and Mrs. Smith did not want to reveal their identity, but they said it
was around noon Saturday when they spotted the black bear at a pond less than
200 feet away.
"If that bear is not concerned about two adults, it's certainly will
not going to be concerned with someone's small children," said Mr. Smith.
The couple said they were working in their barn when Mrs. Smith looked
across the field and saw something that looked like a cow. After taking a
closer look, she knew it was a bear.
"She's yelling, 'bear, bear, bear!' and I was saying, 'bear?'"
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the population of black
bears in Tennessee grows 21 percent annually. The population is currently the
highest it's been in 150 years.
"You hear about bears getting into trash and breaking into
places," said Gantt. "It just made me feel like there something was
in the house all night long. I couldn't sleep easy."
With kids visiting Gantt's home, she said they were keeping a look out, but
what about if she comes face to face with the bear?
"I don't know. I don't know what I'd do. Hopefully, I have a picture
and I can take care of it," she said.
Gantt said catfish are in the lake on her property, so the bear was probably
going after the fish.
TWRA officials have advised if you live near a wooded area where bears could
live, make sure you keep a tight lid on your garbage; never leave pet food is
not left out and clear your bird feeders. These are all food sources for a
A huge factor in the growing number of black bears comes from a change in
the hunting season more than 30 years ago, when the season was changed to
December. This kept hunters from killing female bears, which den earlier in the