I'm starting to feel like all of my bear encounters won't BE bear encounters; they'll just be near misses.

During my last visit to Gatlinburg, I saw the signs everywhere just like you have. There are bear signs on the street and bear signs on the dumpsters. But not once did I see one of our ursine friends. Nope, all I encountered were three militant raccoons who taunted me all week.

Black Bear Sightings Are Not Uncommon in the Appalachians

Yes, as common as bear sightings are in east Tennessee, I came up short that week. Yes, I was there a week and nothing like THIS ever happened:

Mind you, I'm not interested in anything up close and personal. Oh no. But it would have been kind of cool to see one wander through the streets from a safe distance. But no, I got a goose egg in the bear department. And that was in Gatlinburg.

Black Bear Sightings in Kentucky

It's a far, far less common occurrence in my neck of the woods. I mean, for one thing, MY neck of the woods is western Kentucky where bear sightings have been few and far between, and for good reasons. They aren't INDIGENOUS to western Kentucky, much preferring the mountains and heavy foliage eastern Kentucky offers. Here's a graphic from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services detailing black bear distribution in the Commonwealth:

Kentucky Fish & Wildlife
Kentucky Fish & Wildlife

Black Bear Family in Eastern Kentucky

So once you get past, say, Somerset KY, it shouldn't be considered odd to see what Marvin Baird saw. And--BONUS--he was quick with the camera.

How cool is that? And how smart was Marvin to stay right where he was. It's one thing to see a bear, but when it's a mama bear and the little ones are with her, you stay away and be unobtrusive. Bears don't mess around when the kids are nearby.

The black bear population has been on the rise in eastern Kentucky--something to which folks in Hazard can attest.

If you're the type who actually wants to seek them out for prime photo opportunities or video ops like the one above, please understand safeguards when it comes to being around these admittedly unpredictable animals.

Then show us the cool pics when you return.


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