Bear found walking around University of Tennessee campus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Around 4 a.m. Sunday, Lieutenant Doty, with the University of Tennessee Police Department, notified Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers that there was bear making its way through campus. 


The bear got stuck inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium, but was never on the field. Sargent Roy Smith, with TWRA, and Wildlife Officer Jeff Roberson responded to the scene and were able to tranquilize and remove the bear. 


The bear was a 200-pound female. TWRA officers said the bear was not lactating, which meant she most likely did not have any cubs nearby that would be orphaned.

Matt Cameron, spokesperson for TWRA, said the capture of the bear was as smooth as it possibly could have been.

“Our officers, they made a good decision to take her and relocate her because she hasn’t caused any kind of nuisance issues (and) hasn’t been a threat to any human safety. So, we’re confident that she will go and live a good bear life right there in the Foothills WMA (Wildlife Management Area),” Cameron said.

He said that the bear probably wasn’t in hibernation because the weather has been warm.

“We have no idea what her intentions were. It jut appears that she was lost, got lost in downtown Knoxville. She was seen at Children’s Hospital, then down at the vet school, then worked her way back across campus and came to the baseball field and just kind of got stuck there somewhere behind the outfield wall,” Cameron said.

He said that there are many places in Knox County that are rural where bears could hibernate for the winter.

Unlike commonly seen in movies, bears don’t always hibernate in caves.

“They will certainly use caves if they can find them, but you know, there’s 6 to 7,000 bears in Tennessee alone and there’s not that many caves that they can all go into and hibernate,” Cameron said.

He said that bears will also hibernate in the hollow part of trees.

Cameron said that if you see a bear in urban areas, don’t get close to it but don’t run away.

Move away from the bear slowly and call local authorities.

Never feed a bear, Cameron said.

Cameron said that there is a chance more bear sightings are possible before they start hibernating, because the weather is warmer.

He also said that black bears in East Tennessee don’t truly hibernate, so if you see a sleeping one, don’t disturb it.

“It’s more of a deep sleep that they go into and they can wake up from it. So, if you see a sleeping bear sometime in the winter in the woods when you’re out hiking, leave it alone. That thing can, and will, wake up and you can imagine if you wake up a sleeping bear, there could be repercussions for that,” Cameron said.

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