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Police department responds to two bear sightings in town

Bears in Dunlap?  Not once, but twice in the past month someone in Dunlap has called city police to report sighting a black bear.

One night this week, at around 10:15 p.m. someone reported seeing a bear in the area of McDonough Street (on the south side of TN 111), and about three weeks ago someone else called to report a bear in the area of Old SR 8 and Cottage Lane (on the north side of TN 111).

When officers arrived, each time the bear was gone and they were unable to confirm the sightings.

"We have been in contact with the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency), and they were not shocked at all," Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth said Tuesday.  "They told us a bear will travel.  We might have a bear here in Dunlap, and three or four days later, that same bear will pop up in Marion County."

When asked if there have been bear sightings in Dunlap before, Huth said no.

"I have never, ever, ever -- as long as I've been here, up to a month ago -- never had a sighting of a bear here in the city of Dunlap," he said.

But there have been bear sightings out in the county -- on Lewis Chapel, and Cagle, and Signal Mountain -- he said.

And there was that time a sheriff's deputy hit a bear with his patrol car.  Jason Harvey, who is now a detective with the Sequatchie County Sheriff's Department, was a deputy patrolling Signal Mountain one night in 2011 when a black bear ran out into the front of his patrol car.  After skidding across the pavement, the bear jumped up and ran off into the woods.

Dash cam video caught the incident:

Dash-cam video from 2011.

Harvey endured some good-natured ragging from co-workers in the days following his close encounter, including coming to work one day to find a stuffed bear tied to the front of his patrol car.

Chief Huth advises anyone spotting a bear in the area to "just stay away from it and call 911."

If you have outside dogs, pay attention if they start barking during the night.  And it is a good idea not to leave garbage, dog food, or bird feed out, because these might attract a hungry bear.

"We are in contact with the TWRA," Huth said.  "Would they catch it and release it somewhere else?  That would be my guess.  But if you see a bear, leave it alone.  They're not bothering us, and let's not bother them."