Bear, 3 cubs spotted roaming through East Knoxville

(source: Nathan Van Gundy)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – When you go to the Smokies, you expect to see a bear or two but people in East Knoxville say they didn’t expect to spot them in their neighborhood.

A bear and her three cubs were seen wandering close to Exit 398, the Strawberry Plains Exit, off I-40 this weekend. Pictures sent to the WATE 6 On Your Side newsroom show the bears trying to get across Brakebill Road.

There are hotels, home, and hay fields in that part of East Knoxville.

“You see a lot of calves and cows, coyotes, stuff like that but not a bear. We’re a long way from the mountains,” said homeowner Robert Galloway.

Somehow a small family of bears roamed all the way to Strawberry Plains.

“The mother made it across and the cubs seemed a little weary when they saw me,” said Nathan Van Gundy.

At the time, Van Gundy said he parked his truck, watched the bears, and photographed.

“I don’t want to say scary, but you’re wondering how they made it all down here? What are they looking for? Obviously the mother is going to be protective of her babies,” he said.

TWRA says it’s not completely out of the ordinary to see a bear in the area, though it is strange three cubs and their mother were out wandering.

“How long has it taken her to get them cubs this far from the mountains? That’s a long ways. I see all kinds of bears in Cades Cove but you never expect to see one at your back door,” said Galloway.

Rangers believe she’s likely moving in search of food because berries are just beginning to ripen. While the family of bears hasn’t been seen since this weekend, there are some who aren’t necessarily hoping for a second spotting.

“My wife said, ‘That’ll stop me from going out at dark.’ And I said, ‘Nah. They won’t be around here,'” added Galloway.

TWRA also says officers are not trying to move these bears because as wild fruit continues to ripen, the bears should move back to rural areas.

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