Bear Hunting Season

By: Kelli Parker
By: Kelli Parker

It's officially the open season for bear hunters in several East Tennessee counties at least for the next two days, but after the public outcry after TWRA officers euthanized a mother bear and her cubs, will the hunting season be welcome news or dreaded news for those in the community?

The black bears have become more than just a mascot for the Smoky Mountains.

"We haven't had this many bears in Tennessee probably in 150 years," Dave Brandonburg from Wildlife Management said.

They are everywhere. In fact in 1980, Tennessee wildlife officials say they allowed hunters to kill 20 bears. This past year more than 200.

"Some hunt bear for the bear meat some for the trophy aspects," Brandonburg said.

That's why now more than ever, legal bear hunters are welcome to take aim at the furry black creatures.

"Hunting is part of life a lifestyle there's nothing wrong with that," said Judy Messer, who supports bear hunters.

And most Smoky Mountain home and business owners we spoke with agree.

"I don't' think there's too much objection to bear hunting in the woods" said Charles Ogle, who supports bear hunters.

"Bear hunting is like deer hunting. If you want to hunt, I think you should be able to go out there and hunt," said Brent Beeler, who supports bear hunters.

But when you ask the same people about the euthanization of three bears just a few weeks ago, you get a different story.

"For them to arbitrarily just up ad shoot the bears gets all over me," Messer said.

"Euthanizing bears and all this junk, I don't think that's right. Three little cubs that's not right," Beeler said.

And then there are still others who think bear hunting shouldn't be allowed period.

No, I don't like the idea it's part of the mountains here. Its not necessary for food," said Jo-Ann Harrison, who disapproves of bear hunting.

But wildlife officials say if the bear population continues to increase in record numbers to control the population and protect people. Hunters may get more time to scout and shoot the crowd drawing bears.

"Every year we take a look at our hunting recommendation. It could change next year," Brandonburg said.

And the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency says hunters killed 50 bears Monday. That's more than opening day last year, where over the 3 day period, hunters killed 78 bears.


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