With autumn in full swing, Franklin area businesses have adopted some unofficial mascots at the height of the leaflooker season.
“We’ve had some calls over the last few weeks of a black bear cub in the area of [Macon Program for Progress], Mc- Donalds and Pizza Hut,” said Animal Control Officer John Hook on Monday, adding that bear sightings have been reported in the areas of Riverview Heights, Highlands Road and Harrison Avenue, to name a few. “We haven’t had any problems with the cub or any of the other bears sighted around town.”
Early bear sightings began just weeks ago, when Pizza Hut employees spotted a young black bear strolling through the rear end of the parking lot, apparently on the lookout for some food.
“It comes out every once in a while, but then it gets scared and runs away anytime someone gets too close,” said one Pizza Hut manager last Friday. “I think it’s looking for food.”
“We’ve had one small cub on site for two weeks as of today,” said MPP Executive Director Chuck Sutton on Monday. “It’s caused a bit of excitement with the kids since we first started seeing it. It hasn’t been near the kids and the teachers are keeping their eyes open for [the cub].” Sutton added that the cub can be spotted on occasion in the wooded area behind the facility, both in the trees and on the ground, foraging for acorns, to the amusement of students and faculty alike.
Hook indicated that the cub’s parent is “missing in action,” which is why it hasn’t been spotted with a mother bear. It is believed that the cub hanging around MPP is also the same cub that is stalking the dumpsters at Pizza Hut and McDonalds.
Not only are the local youth and businesses amused by the black bear visitors, but tourists are as well.
“I couldn’t believe we saw one. It was really calm,” said Gayle Clark, who along with her husband Mark saw the cub at the local Pizza Hut after returning from a Pigeon Forge vacation. The couple just so happened to stop by the restaurant while on their way back to their Jacksonville home.
“It was kind of ironic to see it at Pizza Hut,” Clark laughed. “We came up here wanting to see at least one bear, and the whole time we were up here we didn’t get to see one, other than the one at Cade’s Cove. We didn’t think we would see any more.” The Clarks concluded that their Appalachian vacation was complete with the Pizza Hut cub encounter. “I’m glad we got to see one.”
For the past week, employees and patrons at the Blaine House Bed and Breakfast have made numerous sightings of a black bear sow and two cubs living in the trees at nearby apartments and near the inn. They are frequently seen foraging for nuts in the yard between the front and rear buildings of the complex.
“An extraordinary sighting that our B&B guests got to partake of and enjoy,” remarked Blaine innkeeper Karin Gorboff. “I guess they were hungry and thought a Bed and Breakfast would be a nice place to get breakfast!”
Authorities are advising the public to avoid provoking the bears and to contact the authorities to notify them of their whereabouts if they spot one.
“Stay clear of the bear and it will mind its own business,” cautioned Hook. “Please don’t feed them, because then they will keep coming back. They are not aggressive and are more or less just hungry.”
Hook added that Macon County Animal Control is unable to remove the cub, or any other of the reported bears in town, due to federal regulations.