Survey Finds Tennesseans Like Bears, Despite Complaints

A Tennessee black bear caught on camera by TWRA
A Tennessee black bear caught on camera by TWRA

State wildlife officials have been contemplating an expansion of black bear hunts as the creatures multiply around the country. However, a telephone survey finds the black bear is well-loved in Tennessee, and most people think there should be more of them, not less.

The survey was meant to gauge the statewide tolerance. Results show 87 percent “support” bears in Tennessee. As many as three-quarters approve of having black bears in their county, though support wanes as they get closer to someone’s back yard.

Landscape architect Sue Neff lives near Big South Fork. While fatal encounters with black bear are rare, Neff says they pose a hazard that’s being ignored.

“Someone is going to have to die or be maimed by a bear up here before the public realizes what we’ve been trying to say for 15 years.”

Neff has been calling for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to control bear populations on the Cumberland Plateau. But recommendations from the survey do not include more hunting. Bear-proof trash containers is one suggestion to reduce negative interactions.

TWRA is holding public meetings on bear management Thursday and Friday in Jamestown and Byrdstown, respectively.

The meetings will be held at the following times and locations:
March 29, 2012
6:30 p.m. (CDT)
York Institute (cafeteria)
701 North Main Street
Jamestown, TN

March 30, 2012
6:30 p.m. (CDT)
Pickett County Courthouse (main courtroom)
1 Courthouse Square
Byrdstown, TN

To view a summary of the phone survey results, view the report here.

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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