Black bears thriving in Big South Fork

ONEIDA, Tenn. (AP) -- New population estimates of black bears in and around the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area show the population is thriving.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the bears were reintroduced to the area almost 20 years ago after they had been nearly wiped out by habitat destruction and unregulated hunting.

New DNA information collected by biologist shows the bears population has grown dramatically from the 14 females and 16 cubs brought from the Smokies in the 1990s. Today there are about 284 animals in the park area in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The population studies show the bears have found the habitat to their liking. Biologists say the Big South Fork population could become ground zero for the natural dispersal of bears across the northern Cumberland Plateau.

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