Motorist reports bear crossing 11-W headed toward Volunteer High School

Jeff Bobo • Sep 4, 2018 at 7:30 PM

CHURCH HILL — Bear sightings are fairly common in Northeast Tennessee, but they seem to garner more attention when they occur in the proximity of a school, such as the one reported Tuesday morning in Church Hill.

Around 9:30 a.m., a motorist reported seeing a bear cross Highway 11-W in front of Volunteer High School.

Volunteer Principal Bobby Wines said that when there’s a wildlife threat on campus, the school goes into “alert status.”

“This would indicate there is no immediate threat, but we would take extra precautions with minimal interference to the regular function of the school day,” Wines said. “The situation could look differently depending on the circumstances, but definitely would include initially limiting movement from building to building, no outside activities, teachers monitoring exterior doors during class change, campus search, reviewing video footage, etc.”

On Tuesday, however, Church Hill Animal Control, the Church Hill Police Department, school administrators, the SRO and available teachers searched campus without spotting a bear.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency information and education coordinator Matthew Cameron said TWRA officers on the scene didn’t find evidence of a bear other than the motorist’s report.

“The principal reviewed security footage and did not see anything,” Cameron said. “Our officers canvassed the school grounds and did not locate a bear. If it were a bear, it continued moving or it could have possibly been a dog that was mistakenly identified.”

Last week, an employee at Jefferson Elementary in Kingsport spotted a bear across the street from the school shortly before noon. As a precaution, students stayed indoors during the afternoon and parents were alerted of the sighting.

School dismissed at its normal time and administrators and an officer with the TWRA were on site to make sure the bear didn’t return to school property.