State wildlife officials announced Wednesday that twenty hunters face charges related to baiting black bears on opening day of the hunting season.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, several officers confronted two groups of black bear hunters in the early morning hours on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 after they allegedly turned hounds loose at two baited sites on Chilhowee Mountain.
Officers say the hunters illegally used bait of candy and bread to lure the bears, making the hunt unethical by discouraging fair chase. A total of 39 citations were issued to twenty hunters for hunting violations and officers confiscated their weapons.
A weeklong bear hunting season opened in Bear Hunt Zone 2, which includes Blount, Sevier and parts of Jefferson and Cocke counties, on Sept. 26 and runs through Oct. 2. Hunting regulations prohibit the use of bait while hunting and require any bait be removed, or electronic feeder disabled, at least ten days prior to hunting.
The violations reportedly occurred on a 600-acre tract of private property off Montvale Road on Chilhowee Mountain, an area directly across the street from the Foothills Wildlife Management Area.
“Baiting black bears can also have a negative impact by encouraging habituation to human foods. Once bears become habituated to unnatural foods, they generally seek out garbage cans, dumpsters, campsites, etc. leading to nuisance behavior,” the agency said in a release. “Illegal baiting of black bears in this area is also likely having a negative impact on legal hunting by drawing bears from the management area and surrounding private properties.”
The hunters charged in connection to the case are set to appear in Blount County General Sessions Court on Nov. 18, 2016 at 9 a.m.
556 bears were legally harvested in the state during 2015.