Bear Spotted in Lakeland

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(Lakeland, TN) A Lakeland family spotted a young, black bear Tuesday afternoon along the edge of their backyard.

Their home, near Canada Road and Memphis-Arlington Road, has a backyard adjacent to a wooded area that extends for about a half mile.

On Tuesday, Mackenzie Anschultz said she was home from college and inside the house when she saw something out the window.

At first she thought it was a neighbor's dog that might have gotten lost. So she whistled and called it.

"So I was like, come on, boy. Come on. And it finally looked up and looked right at me. And it kind of trudged back into the woods," she said.

She said when it raised its head, she knew it was no dog. Anschultz quickly took her iPhone to try and photograph the bear before it moved.

"We do bonfires out in the back, and I always have my friends over and stuff. And so I was talking with some friends, saying it's so crazy to think that we sit out there," she said. "What would we do if we were out in the woods and the bear walked up? I don't know what I would do."

Neighborhood children play in a treehouse right next to where the bear appeared, and several families have hammocks in the trees there too.

Anschultz said it seemed to be a small bear, which makes sense to Chad Harden, a former big game biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

"The young bears, typically the males, will leave their home territory that they were raised in, and try to find a new place," Harden said.

Harden saw the picture Anschultz took and said that while the distance makes it hard to say that was definitely a bear, it also doesn't look like any other animal.

Two years ago, another young bear made its way from Alabama to Lakeland. Agents had to tranquilize it after it climbed up in a resident's tree.

Experts with TWRA said that these bears are typically afraid of humans.

"As long as the bear sees you, and knows that people are there, it's probably going to run the other way," Harden said.

That being said, people should try not to attract bears by leaving out garbage or food, including pet food. The TWRA website also recommends not feeding birds from April through November, unless the feeders have spill pans and are out of bears' reach.

There have not been stable bear populations in Shelby County since before 1900, but there are bears in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and East Tennessee.

Currently bears are only spotted in Memphis every two or three years. The population of bears is expanding though, which means over time, bear sightings may become more common in West Tennessee too.

"The growth of the bear population we think is a good thing. Because it's a species that we used to have in West Tennessee, and it looks like it may be coming back," Harden said.