The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with multiple partners have developed a new task force to focus on bear management in Sevier County and surrounding communities.
This new educational initiative is being referred to as the BearWise Task Force and is sponsored by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The program focuses on informing the public how to live with bears by encouraging proactive measures to prevent conflicts, providing resources to resolve problems, and encouraging community-based initiatives that focus on keeping bears wild.
The task force will meet on a regular basis to discuss ongoing bear management issues and develop action plans and projects to address needs. Many of these projects will focus on community involvement of both residents and businesses.
Current Bear Management Projects Include:
- Developing educational materials for residents, visitors, and tourism businesses
- Development of preferred standards for bear-resistant garbage containers
- Development of a program to update existing garbage containers with auto locking mechanisms
- Exploring ideas regarding other needs that have been identified
To increase the acceptance of the program in the community, multiple partners who bring a multitude of experience in various targeted audiences are involved. Current member agencies and organizations include: City of Gatlinburg, Chalet Village, Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, National Parks Conservation Association, Appalachian Bear Rescue, Park Vista a Double Tree by Hilton, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and TWRA. Initially, programs will be marketed and tested in and around Gatlinburg with intentions of spreading further into the Sevier County area as well as surrounding communities. As the programs grow, additional partners will be added to the task force.