A wayward black bear decided to make an unscheduled stop at Knoxville Zoo in the middle of the night. Zoo rangers spotted the surprise visitor in neighboring Chilhowee Park before the bear was observed scaling the zoo’s perimeter fence around 12 a.m. this morning.
Zoo staff quickly implemented safety protocols, including a quick accounting of the zoo’s four resident black bears. Once it was confirmed that the interloper was indeed a wandering black bear from parts unknown, zoo rangers and staff immediately began a sweep of the zoo’s property in an attempt to locate the bear.
Although multiple searches of the zoo’s 53 acres have been made, no sign of the youngster has turned up. Knoxville Police Department dispatchers were notified of the bear sighting and veterinarians from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and TWRA wildlife officers were standing by to offer assistance if needed. When no indications were found that the wondering bear was still on zoo grounds, zoo officials opened the zoo as scheduled.
“Of course our first concern is to ensure the safety of our visitors and animals,” said Lisa New, executive director of Knoxville Zoo. “We are also concerned about the welfare of our wandering bear.
New said the bear has hopefully made his way to a more rural area.
“Of course, our Black Bear Falls is one of the top habitats in the country, so maybe word has gotten out in the black bear community,” she quipped.
Wandering black bears are not uncommon this time of year, according to Amy Flew, curator of mammals.
“This is when the younger bears are starting to seek out their own territory,” she said. “Unfortunately, with the close proximity of our homes to their habitats, sometimes we may cross paths.”
Knoxville Zoo said if the bear is located on zoo grounds, they will waive his admission fee.
Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville’s largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392A from Interstate 40, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation and education. Currently, the zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865.637.5331 or visit www.knoxvillezoo.org.