Going On A Bear Hunt…On The Cumberland Plateau? Now You Can

Tennessee wildlife officials say there may be more black bears in the state than any time in the last 150 years. While primarily concentrated in upper East Tennessee, black bears are "spilling out" into the areas surrounding the Smoky Mountains. Credit: Lee Coursey via Flickr

Tennessee wildlife officials say there may be more black bears in the state than any time in the last 150 years. While primarily concentrated in upper East Tennessee, black bears are “spilling out” into the areas surrounding the Smoky Mountains. Credit: Lee Coursey via Flickr

After decades of rebuilding black bear numbers in Tennessee, wildlife officials are opening up bear hunting on the Cumberland Plateau. They say black bears are spilling out of their traditional habitat in the Smoky Mountains and their numbers are high enough to support limited hunting in places like Cumberland, Morgan and Scott counties.

Some residents of the northern Cumberland Plateau have been clamoring for hunting as bears begin to encroach on backyards and dumpsters around Big South Fork National Recreation Area. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency actually conducted a phone survey to gauge attitudes toward black bear now that they’re showing up in new parts of the state.

“Keep in mind, we’re going to recommend very restrictive seasons. It’s an archery-only season. We just want to make sure we don’t take out too many of those bears because those bears are the ones recolonizing parts of Tennessee, and we’re all in favor of that.” – Daryl Ratajczak, TWRA chief of wildlife

A total of 15 counties will now have some kind of bear hunting allowed, up from 10 in 2013.

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