It looks as though the local bear population refuses to halt its rambles through the historic town of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., foraging meals from trash cans, picnic tables and anywhere edibles are inadvertently left to entice the voracious animals.
The problem has become one of urgency to nearby Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (CGNHP), as well, prompting park ranger Jenny Beeler to discuss the matter last week during the July meeting of the Gap Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
After an absence of several decades, the black bear has returned to the southern Appalachians, said Beeler. In response, park officials are educating the public about the problem through the Back the B.E.A.R.S. campaign, she said.
It is illegal in Kentucky and Virginia to feed bears, even unintentionally. Once a bear is labeled a nuisance, it will be more than likely “put down.”
The park service in the Tri-State area will not relocate the bears found foraging in residential areas, said Beeler.
A large part of the awareness program focuses on the human factor. Food, garbage and recyclables should always be placed away from easy access. Screened porches and truck beds are not secure locations, she said.
Grills and smokers should be kept clean and stored in a secure area when not in use. And, outdoor pets should be fed just enough so that the food is consumed in one sitting. Never feed birds and other wildlife where bears have proven active, she added.
“Unfortunately, spraying deterrents like ammonia in your trash cans doesn’t help much,” said Beeler.
The bear, she said, does not have good eyesight but has a keen sense of smell.
The campaign is funded through a National Park Foundation grant, through Disneynature and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.
Beeler said about half the funds are being used to produce and distribute educational materials. The other half is used to purchase bear-proofed trash cans and dumpsters, she said.
In other action, Cumberland Gap appears to be struggling with its new fiscal year budget. Alderman John Ravnum said the town needs to “put the brakes on” some of its spending.
“We need to watch it closely. If we keep going like we are, nothing will be left for the future,” said Ravnum.
The recent Genealogy Jamboree drew visitors to the Gap from 37 states and Canada, said Jam official Mark Treadway.
“During all that rain on Thursday (the first of the three-day event), we still handed out over 300 programs to people coming in,” he said.
The event, sponsored to raise funds for the Cumberland Gap Volunteer Fire Station, upped the department’s coffers by some $800.
Treadway said a large majority of those venders who participated this year have already requested booth space for the 2015 edition. Most of the reenactors have voiced their wish to return, as well, he said.
Town Hall will be closed on July 31, due to the continuing municipal education of town recorder Linda Moyers.
Jan Runions may be reached at 423-626-3222.