Rey Padilla thought he had seen just about everything during his years in the military and as a golf professional.
Now the new pro and general manager of Elizabethton Golf Course is dealing with a new challenge — bears.
Three bears — insert joke here — have been roaming the golf course and surrounding neighborhood. The mother black bear and her two cubs have been caught on residential surveillance cameras strolling through a driveway of a house adjacent to the third hole.
“It’s my first experience with bears in my life,” said Padilla, who came to Elizabethton in July. “It’s definitely a little scary. You always watch Animal Planet and see some of those stories and you don’t know what to expect.”
Padilla has been in touch with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and they have pointed him toward the website bearwise.org for information.
The bears have done some damage to the course, digging up one of the holes on a green and leaving giant paw prints on another.
“They dug three holes and removed the flag and the cup out of the green on one hole,” Padilla said. “You could see the paw print on the bottom of the sand on one hole. They’ve been seen a couple of times, but it’s not been anything major.”
It’s apparent, the bears don’t have very good golf etiquette.
“They definitely don’t stay on the cart path,” Padilla said with a chuckle.
The course has put out an alert, warning golfers about the bear sightings, asking them to be wary of their surroundings and to contact the pro shop if they see the bears.
Fall is the time black bears eat a lot to get ready for hibernation.
The TWRA folks are the experts when it comes to dealing with bears, and they have some tips on their website. The biggest one is to restrict the access the bears have to human and pet food. Also, never feed or approach the bears.
THINGS TO KNOW
• While black bears are usually tolerant of humans, they should always be treated as wild animals, whether in residential or back-country areas.
• Black bears are rarely aggressive toward people and typically go out of their way to avoid contact. However as human development continues and bear numbers increase, occasional interactions will be unavoidable.
• Black bears are extremely powerful animals whose behaviors can be unpredictable.
• Black bears are very curious animals and this should not be confused with aggression.
• Startled bears will often confront intruders by turning sideways to appear larger, make woofing and teeth clacking sounds, salivate, lay their ears back and slap the ground with their paws. These are warnings for you to leave the area.
• Bears will often stand on their hind legs to get a better view or a better sense of hearing and smell.
The TWRA says following these guidelines will minimize many unnecessary and potentially dangerous encounters.