Courtesy: Kathy and Bob Proctor
A few unwelcome visitors have made their way out of the mountains and into the backyards, bushes, and porches of East Tennessee homes.
Several bears have been spotted in the metro area in recent weeks, which experts say is typical this time of year.
"Around this time, 'family breakup' has occurred, and that's where the mother has run off the yearlings," explained Janet Dalton, of Appalachian Bear Rescue. "What we see is a lot of bears trying to move and they're trying to find their own habitat, their own territory."
Dalton said although the bear population is growing, the animals' habitat is not.
"They're looking for food, and if they find a source of food they're going to go to it," she said. "As the bears move across Tennessee, it's going to become more common to see them in the cities."
One bear spent a few days exploring the Lakemoor Hills neighborhood in South Knoxville. Jane and Walter Anen watched from their kitchen table as the creature walked by.
"He came right out of the woods and walked on this path that we have to our next door neighbors' house," Jane said.
The couple drove the length of their street, trying to catch another glimpse and to warn others. Although they never saw the bear again, several other neighbors have.
"People have seen it, they've had their bird feeders just torn up!"
At a meeting Tuesday night, neighborhood leaders say several days have passed since the last bear sighting. They assume the animal has moved on, looking elsewhere for food.
Dalton said people should keep a close eye on pet food, bird feed, and trash cans kept outside. She added, bears are naturally fearful of humans so the best plan of action is to leave the animal alone and contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.