MARYVILLE — In connection with the opening of the bear hunting season, TWRA Wildlife Officers have charged 20 hunters with violations related to the illegal hunting of black bears while using bait in Blount County.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 26, several TWRA officers confronted two groups of black bear hunters who turned hounds loose at two baited sites on Chilhowee Mountain off of Montvale Road. Officers say that the baited sites consisted of candy and bread making the hunt unethical by discouraging fair chase. 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 600-acre tract of private property where the violations occurred is located directly across Montvale Road from the Foothills Wildlife Management Area. 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 weeklong season that began on Sept. 26 goes through Oct. 2 is open for the use of dogs in Blount, Sevier and portions of Cocke and Jefferson Counties.
The hunters charged in connection to the case are set to appear in Blount County General Sessions Court on Nov. 18 at 9 a.m.