A Black Bear sow with her cubs, look toward the camera for a photo by Tennessee wild life officers. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has recently trapped a mother bear and cubs that were getting into the dumpsters and trash cans near the Johnson County High School and surrounding community, and relocated them to the Cherokee National Forest. Photo by TN.gov.
By Veronica Burniston
For the last three years, Johnson County High School (JCHS) has struggled to keep its dumpsters secure from foraging black bears. Thanks to assistance from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and a qualified Wildlife Officer sent to the scene, the high school and the surrounding community have one less burden to bear.
“Johnson County High School has been having issues with bears getting into the dumpster and hanging around campus for several years,” Matthew Cameron, TWRA Wildlife Information Specialist, said. “Last week, Wildlife Officer Caleb Marshall trapped a sow with three cubs, who were getting into the dumpster, and relocated them to the Cherokee National Forest.”
In 2018, TWRA estimated the black bear population to be approaching 6,000 and steadily rising. With a growing bear population, incidents like the JCHS dumpsters and black bear sightings may become common occurrences in Johnson County. A familiar sight to Johnson County locals, the Black Bear is the most common and recognizable North American bear. As omnivores, Black Bears are willing and ready to eat anything from berries and insects to pet food and human garbage.
The “opportunistic” eating often drives them to dig through neighborhood trash cans and become frequent nighttime visitors to specific locations. Until recently, the Johnson County High School had been one of those locations prompting officials to take some action.
For those unfamiliar with the TWRA, it is an independent state agency responsible for overseeing and maintaining Tennessee wildlife. In addition to enforcing wildlife-related laws, including hunting regulations and restriction, TWRA officials also offer a variety of services such as selling fishing, hunting, and boating licenses, as well as assisting landowners in creating welcoming habitats for wildlife on their private property.
Cameron emphasized that TWRA does not regularly trap and relocate black bears, “but in this instance, it was the best resolution for the sow and cubs.” Concerning future solutions for JCHS, Cameron said, “I also spoke with TWRA Black Bear Coordinator Dan Gibbs, who says we are working with JCHS in finding a solution to reduce the ongoing problem of black bears having access to their dumpsters. The school has made unsuccessful attempts at keeping bears out, but TWRA is offering other solutions.”
For more information about the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and their available services, visit their website.