Wildlife Officer Goes Above & Beyond to Rescue Bear

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A black bear that suffered through three weeks of anguish with a plastic container stuck over its head is now safe and sound due to the persistence of a well-trained wildlife officer, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

TWRA wildlife officer Shelley Hammonds got the first call about the bear on June 28th from an employee of Newport Utilities, who spotted the bear near the water plant on Cedar St. Pictures and witnesses concluded that the bear had gotten a clear plastic food container stuck over its head while foraging through a garbage dump.

Officer Hammonds responded the next day but could not find the handicapped bear.

The bear wasn't seen again until the July 4th holiday.

Hammonds responded along with wildlife officers Scott Hollenbeck, David Sexton, and Curt Henderson, who were in route to assist with a tranquilizer gun. Before the gun could arrive, the bear left the area and officers couldn't couldn't find it.

A similar trend of near-captures continued over the next week-and-a-half leaving officers with only handfuls of bear hair as it repeatedly eluded their grasps. On one occasion, Hammonds even got a shot at the bear but the tranguilizer dart missed its mark. She feared the bear was going to suffer a slow and agonizing death.

Several days later new sightings of the bear came in around the lower English Creek area near Cosby. Over 50 calls poured in through the Cocke County 911 Center, the TWRA office, and to wildlife officers. Once again however, the bear remained just out of the wildlife officers reach.

On July 16th, Hammonds got a call that the bear had moved over to the Carson Springs area. This meant that it must have traveled over a very steep part of English Mountain or went completely around it.

Hammonds said, “I was utterly amazed that it had crossed the mountain and was still alive. Its will to live gave me a lot of encouragement and made me determined to help save it.”

The next day Hammonds went up on English Mountain with hopes of crossing paths with the black bear that just wouldn’t give up the fight to survive. It was at this point that she received reports that the bear had been sighted across Interstate-40 near the La Carreta Restaurant in Newport. As Hammonds drove over to the area and down Sequoyah Rd., the bear crossed in front of her vehicle. She was able to get stopped and make a successful shot with a tranquilizer dart.

The bear eventually laid down in the parking lot of the C&C Pawn Shop where dozens of onlookers watched as Hammonds rendered aid. Hammonds is also a Registered Nurse, an EMT IV, and enrolled in Paramedic school.
She was concerned the bear in an ultra-stressed condition might succumb to the tranquilizing drugs. She and another nurse on the scene successfully administered intravenous fluids into the bears left jugular vein.

She described the adult male bear in “emaciated condition” and estimated its weight at about one-hundred and fifteen pounds, when it should have weighed around two-hundred pounds.

Hammonds said, “On every level he was in a deficit. For three weeks he had not eaten, had been breathing his own breath, and the only way he must have been able to drink was by lowering his head under water and filling up the jug.”


Amazingly, the bear made a full recovery and was released into the Cherokee National Forest far away from any garbage containers.

Hammonds is grateful to the host of citizens that assisted in the removal of the container and kept the bear cool and comfortable during the rescue and to Cocke County Baptist Hospital for providing medical supplies.

District 42 Captain Tim Sain, and wildlife officers James McAfee and Marvin Reeves also assisted in the overall effort while the Newport Police Department provided security at the scene.

TWRA spokesperson Allen Ricks said, "It is not just garbage and litter that kills bears, but the habits of the landowners. Pet-food and garbage must be contained indoors and birds do not need feeders during the summer months when other foods are available in their natural environments."

Additionally, the drop in last season’s bear harvest means that there is a surplus of bears that will continue to move into areas where they are not normally seen. Tennessee residents must be prepared for increased bear-sightings, learn to coexist with them, and not enable them to become habituated to human actions.

Residents are also encouraged to recycle these types of containers and to cut them into small pieces to help prevent a similar situation in the future.


Crabtree Farms Offers Fall Gardening Workshop

In response to a growing interest in fall backyard gardening, local non-profit, Crabtree Farms is offering educational opportunities and affordable, healthy plant starts to help Chattanoogans grow their own food this fall.   “While most people are excited to plant their gardens in spring or summer, there is a growing number of people who realize that they can enjoy ... (click for more)

Star Party At Cloudland Canyon Will Be Aug. 23

The Summer Constellations will be the topic of the upcoming Star Party at Cloudland Canyon State Park on Saturday, Aug. 23 .  Sponsored by the staff and friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park, the program will be presented by members of the Barnard Astronomical Society and will be held at the tennis courts. The program begins at 8 p.m. and participants will learn ... (click for more)

DA Looking Into Issue Of County Commission Candidate's Campaign Sending Filled-Out Request For Absentee Ballot To Elderly Voters

The District Attorney's Office has been provided with documents that a County Commission candidate's campaign sent filled-out requests for absentee ballots to elderly voters. Kerry Steelman, election administrator, said there have been four instances in which such requests came from the Elect John Brooks campaign. He said state law says in Section 2-6-202:  (3) A person ... (click for more)

Graham Says County School-City Lawsuit Settlement "Stinks," But County Commission Approves It

The County Commission on Wednesday approved a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Hamilton County Schools against the city of Chattanooga, though several commissioners said they were not happy with the deal and Commissioner Joe Graham said it "stinks." Commissioner Graham was the lone no vote. He was joined by Commissioner Tim Boyd in a failed effort to defer it a week. ... (click for more)

The Truth From Weston’s Sister - And Response (2)

I try not to read the negative articles and opinions about my older brother. Growing up around politics, I learned a long time ago that thick skin is not only necessary, it’s paramount. But this time, the lies and the rumors and the inaccurate information has gone too far. It’s too ridiculous for me to ignore. So let’s clear a few things up: Weston and I do not “come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Oscar Brock’s True Passion

I don’t pay much attention to the Hamilton County School Board. Once the moon and the stars aligned behind Superintendent Rick Smith, you hear very little, if anything, from the nine-member council that oversees an annual budget of almost $400 million and employs 4,480 people. So chew this for a minute: approximately 2,000 of those people are not teachers. Yes, there are 78 principals ... (click for more)