GATLINBURG, Tenn. – A tourist staying near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee found an unexpected guest in her hot tub Thursday night – a bear, accompanied by three cubs.
Elizabeth Strickland snapped a few photos of the black bear as it enjoyed a soak on the porch of her Gatlinburg cabin.
“I just had to share with y’all,” she told WBIR. “I was in that same seat 14 hours ago!”
After a dip tub and a bit of play time, Strickland said mama bear and her three cubs moved along without incident.
“Black bears are one of Tennessee’s state treasures and no other animal exemplifies the wilderness experience like them,” according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “They have been called a charismatic mega-fauna and for good reason – everyone from non-hunters, to hunters, to wildlife watchers – we all love bears in our own special ways.”
The agency urges residents and visitors to help “keep them wild and keep them alive.”
WINNESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of a black bear in northeast Iowa after a hunter captured video of the animal, and the DNR says the sighting is “pretty significant.”
The bear was spotted Saturday by Zach Anderson, who posted a short video he took while turkey hunting near Decorah. Anderson said, “I had a full grown black bear cruise by me 10-15yrds this morning while turkey hunting NE iowa.”
Anderson admitted the sighting was a little scary but still, “One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!”
Vince Evelsizer, furbearer biologist with the Iowa DNR, says the video is significant because a black bear has been confirmed in the same area in Winneshiek County for the last three years. The DNR thinks it’s likely the same bear, who decided to stay and make Iowa home. That’s a huge development, because though bears are native to the state, the last wild bear that was considered a resident in Iowa was killed in the 1880s.
The DNR gets a handful of reports each year of bear sightings and says those bears probably wandered into Iowa from populations in southeast Minnesota or southwest Wisconsin and usually make their way back to where they came from.
The bear in Winneshiek County is likely the first wild bear to make its home in Iowa in more than 130 years. Evelsizer says the bear hasn’t been a nuisance and has kept out-of-the-way of humans.
There isn’t an established breeding population in Iowa and the DNR does not know whether the Winneshiek County bear is a male or female. Evelsizer says it’s been about 30 years since a confirmed sighting of bear cubs in the state was confirmed.
“It will be interesting to see what happens. If a breeding population becomes reestablished in our state,” says Evelsizer.
Two other confirmed sightings of bears have come in to the DNR this month, one in Delaware County and another in Fayette County. The DNR does not believe those sightings were of the same bear spotted in Winneshiek County.
Black bears are not a protected species in Iowa but the DNR encourages anyone who might come across one to leave it alone and give it space.