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UPDATE: Bear captured after all-day romp through Johnson City

Brandon Paykamian & Zach Vance • Updated Oct 8, 2018 at 10:08 PM

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers captured a 150-pound bear that had been wondering the streets of Johnson City most of the day Monday. 

Wildlife officers followed the 1-year-old bear through town and saw it eating food from a residential garbage can on Avondale Road in Johnson City, TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron said. 

Around 5 p.m., officers shot the bear with a dart of immobilizing drugs and took it to the local TWRA office, where it was tagged and prepped for relocation to the Cherokee National Forest. 

Monday morning, local residents on 10th Street said the Johnson City Police Department notified them to stay inside after other residents reported a “large” bear sighting in the area behind Dollar General on North Roan Street. 

“The police came by and said we need to get inside because there was a bear behind the Dollar General. Two officers came and told us he was trying to get over the fence,” 10th Street resident Jessica Price said. “I don’t know where he went after that. The police said he’s headed toward Science Hill High School.”

Price said she did not see the bear herself when police arrived around 11:30 a.m., but Marcus Watterson, a resident who lives on Davis Street, caught a glimpse of it and was also told to stay indoors. 

“I just saw the bear earlier today. He was walking near Save-A-Lot and the Dollar Store,” Watterson said. 

In instances such as these, Lt. Eric Dougherty of the Johnson City Police Department said officers do not try to apprehend the bear. If the bear is reported to stay in one area for an extended period of time, he said officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency will come to deal with the situation. 

He said Johnson City officers’ main purpose is to “make people aware of the situation.” 

“Apparently this bear has been moving around a lot this morning. 911 has received a lot of calls,” he said. “We just want the bear to get on out of town.” 

Residents on West Holston Avenue also reported a bear sighting on social media as well. Video was captured of a bear running through Carver Recreation Center’s parking lot, and Facebook photos showed a bear on North Roan Street near Sunset Drive.

“I thought it was a cub, but it was a pretty good size,” Carver Recreation Center Programs Coordinator Tamara Foster said. “I guess he saw a car and went up in the field behind the houses on Holston and up toward Chilhowie.

“I just happened to look outside and I yelled really loud,” she said. “I’ve never seen one up close like that unless it was at the zoo.”

Another Facebook user photographed a bear on Lamont Street near Oak Hill Cemetery.

Tips from the TWRA: 

• Never feed or approach bears. Feeding bears (intentionally or unintentionally) trains them to approach homes and people for more food. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.

• Secure food, garbage and recycling. Food and food odors attract bears so don’t reward them with easily available food or garbage.

• Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed and other grains have high-calorie content making them very attractive to bears. The best way to avoid conflicts with bears is to remove feeders.

• Never leave food out. Feed outdoor pets portion sizes that will be completely eaten during each meal and then remove leftover food and food bowl. Securely store these foods so nothing is available to bears.

• Clean and store grills. After you use an outdoor grill, clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat is removed. Store cleaned grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.

• Let your neighbors know. Share news with your friends and neighbors about recent bear activity and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; are you willing to adapt to living near bears? 

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