The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Thomas Fraser

Screen Shot 2024 06 21 at 9.36.41 PMIn this image from a social media video, a woman and child are seen outside the Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg. Biologists have concluded the bear is too habituated to humans and plans call for trapping and euthanizing the animal.  Hellbender Press

The incident caught outside a Gatlinburg hotel was not “normal bear behavior” and relocation of a fed, fearless bear isn’t an option

GATLINBURG — Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency biologists plan to trap and euthanize a bear featured in a viral video posted June 16 to the Facebook account of a woman who lists Chicago as her home.
The video, which is no longer viewable by the public, shows a woman holding a small child just outside the Bearskin Lodge. The woman and other guests had opted to stay outside despite being asked to come into the hotel lobby after a black bear appeared, according to TWRA.
The bear rears on its hind legs and sniffs the woman and the child’s foot, which she recoiled in fear. At one point the bear’s claws become hooked on the woman’s clothing. The bear ultimately retreats, snuffling and pawing around a nearby rocking chair before leaving with what appears to be garbage in its mouth.
“This is an example of how unfearful people have become of wildlife and how misunderstood black bears can be,” said TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron via email. “They are not Teddy bears. They are large, powerful animals with sharp claws, sharp teeth and strong jaws.” 

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KNOXVILLE John Nolt, a member of the Sierra Club’s Harvey Broome Group executive committee and professor emeritus in philosophy at the University of Tennessee, will present a program about cryptocurrencies and their detrimental long-term effects on the environment. Cryptocurrency “mines” (data centers, really) pull enormous quantities of power from the electrical grid.

Thus they are attracted to states like Tennessee where electric power is relatively cheap.

The event is set for 7-8:30 p.m. June 11 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville.

HEAD1Andrew Zimmerman

KNOXVILLE — Join Conservation Fisheries, Inc. and other experts for a discussion on how to HEAD UNDERWATER to snorkel and enjoy the beautiful underwater biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians.

The free event is set for 6-8 p.m. June 15 at Remedy Coffee, 800 Tyson Place, Knoxville.

The panel will be led by CFI Director Bo Baxter; Casper Cox from Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia; Jennifer Webster from Little River Watershed Association; and TVA Fisheries Biologist Justin Wolbert. 

IMG 0793 1Cleanup crews clear a section of roadway in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area following storms that swept the park May 26.  National Park Service

Search came as Big South Fork cleans up after May 26 storm that brought May rainfall total to 12 inches

WARTBURG — Searchers found the body of a man that was the subject of a search that began Memorial Day after he was swept away by high water in Daddy’s Creek in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area in Morgan County. 

Morgan County emergency management director Ethan Webb late Friday identified the victim as 57-year-old Wade Davis, originally identified by authorities as a Cumberland County resident. National Park Service personnel recovered the body about a mile downstream from Devils Breakfast Table near the Obed River. It is a rugged, steep area traversed by the Cumberland Trail.

Daddy’s Creek is a popular kayaking destination featuring class III and IV rapids that flows into the Obed River. Heavy rain had swollen the creek out of its banks, Webb said. Davis was with a family member when he lost his footing while wading and was swept downstream.

Multiple agencies were involved in the search “by air, by water and by land,” Webb said. “There wasn’t a day we didn’t search.” Drones, inflatable boats and a Highway Patrol helicopter were used. At least 25 people were involved at some point during the search, which was complicated by the speed of the water and rapids.

“We were in constant contact with the family,” he said. On Friday, the family received at least a measure of closure.

Published in News, Earth

Golden Press Card clear 

The honor continues Hellbender Press’s tradition of excellence in journalism.

KNOXVILLE — Hellbender Press: The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia, was honored with a first-place award by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists (ETSPJ) for its probe into a controversial municipal airport proposed by the city of Oak Ridge.

Reporters Wolf Naegeli and Ben Pounds and Hellbender Press editor and publisher Thomas Fraser accepted the award during ETSPJ’s 2023 Golden Press Card awards, held May 16 at Maple Hall in downtown Knoxville. The honors, which are bestowed upon television, radio, print and digital media, “strive to honor the best journalism in the eastern region of Tennessee from the past year,” according to ETSPJ.

Hellbender Press was honored with first place in the digital space for its investigation into the proposed airport, which the city maintains would juice economic development, especially in the high-tech business realm. 

IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville in this file photo. Moll tends to his natural habitat in keeping with city codes protocols.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

City: Overgrown lots don’t automatically qualify as wildlife habitat

KNOXVILLE — City government wants people to know that though “No Mow May” is a worthy observation there are still some protocols residents have to follow to avoid codes violations and potential fines.

The month of May is hyped as a prime time to refrain from cutting your grass or portions of your lawn to allow pollinating plants and the pollinators they support to get six legs up late spring and early summer nectar season. It’s also an occasion to consider the fact that traditional lawns are largely ecological deserts.

“No Mow May” is a quick and catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing the yard for a month,” according to Bee City USA, a proponent of keeping your yard real and wild when and where it is practical.

“It’s more than long grass and dandelion blooms. It’s a gateway to understanding how we share our lawns with many small creatures.”

It goes beyond bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects. Many ground-nesting birds are on the decline due to loss of grassy habitat. Native grasses also serve as habitat for small mammals such as rabbits and mice, which in turn provide a buffet for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles.

Hellbender Press has reported on cultivation of such natural landscapes and habitats within the city limits. Groups such as the Native Plant Rescue Squad can also provide plants and guidance.

North Ridge Trail Trail Day 3

OAK RIDGE Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning and the North Ridge Trail maintenance volunteers invite everyone to our 2024 National Trails Day work project on the North Ridge Trail.

Work on the Orchard Lane access trail will begin at 9 a.m. June 1.

The access trail is located along a water drainage route. Erosion along the ditch has made the trail difficult to follow. We will work to relocate the first 130 feet of the access trail away from the water route.

Bring drinking water, sunscreen, insect repellent and good gloves. TCWP will provide some work tools, but feel free to bring any of your personal tools, including grubbing tools such as mattocks, Pulaskis, fire rakes, rogue hoes and/or McLeods fire tools. After the work is completed, a pizza lunch will be provided a short drive from the work location.

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GATLINBURG — A missing man who was the subject of a search in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was found on Wednesday.

Jacob Riggs was located in the vicinity of Tremont by a park visitor who recognized that he was in need of care. The visitor brought Riggs to the Incident Command Post near the Townsend Wye. Riggs had minor injuries and exposure to weather. He was evaluated onsite and taken to a local hospital. 

The previous story is below:

Park rangers are searching for a 35-year-old man near the Townsend Wye, Tremont and Cades Cove areas of the park. Jacob Riggs was last seen in Maynardville, Tenn. on April 7. His vehicle was found in the park on April 8. 

Riggs is a white male, with black hair and a dark beard, and brown eyes. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds.  

Several organizations are helping the National Park Service in the search and more resources are en route.  
Anyone who saw Riggs or has information about his whereabouts is asked to please contact the national park.
— CALL the NPS Tip Line 888-653-0009
— EMAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
— EMERGENCY dial 9-1-1 

City Nature Challenge logo 

KNOXVILLE — People across 13 counties in East Tennessee are urged to record animals, plants and fungi they observe for four days in late April.

City Nature Challenge 2024 is international, but the Knoxville-area challenge includes anyone in Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier and Union counties. It will run April 26 through April 29 via the iNaturalist app, which is available on Google play or the App Store. While the focus is largely centered on urban areas, participants don’t have to live within a city or town to record their observations.

Participants can upload photos from a digital camera to the iNaturalist website even if they lack a smartphone. Zoo Knoxville, Tennessee Butterfly Monitoring Challenge, the city of Knoxville, Ijams Nature Center, Sierra Club, South Doyle Middle School and Discover Life in America are partnering to support the project. No experience is needed to participate. Results will be announced on May 6.

Friday, 05 April 2024 07:10

View the partial eclipse in the Park

Eclipse KoutchmyThe central, dark image shows the total eclipse on March 9, 2016 from Earth, with the central pupil created by the sun covered by a dark moon as seen from the NASA and ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Faint structures in the sun’s corona extend outward from this disk with the corona imaged in white light, easily visible from the ground only during an eclipse.  NASA 

GATLINBURG  A total solar eclipse will be visible across a swath of the United States on April 8, stretching from Texas to Maine. Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies outside the path of totality but will experience an 86 to 87 percent obstruction of the sun during the event.

In the Smokies, viewers will experience a partial eclipse, when the moon only partially blocks the sun. In the national park, the moon will begin its intersection of the sun’s orbit at 1:49 p.m., the obstruction will reach its maximum extent at 3:08 p.m., and the event will conclude at 4:23 p.m. 

A total eclipse is lineup of the sun, the moon, and Earth. The moon will be directly between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on Earth. A total eclipse occurs when the moon covers the entirety of the sun except for the corona, or sun’s atmosphere.

Viewing a solar eclipse without proper eye protection is dangerous and can result in long-term vision impairment or blindness. Regular sunglasses — no matter how dark — are not safe for viewing the eclipse. To ensure safe viewing, park staff will make available one free pair of glasses per family/group at the viewing locations listed below while supplies last. If visitors wish to have enough glasses for everyone in their group to view the eclipse at the same time, they will need to bring eclipse glasses along or purchase them. The park’s retail partner, Smokies Life, will have the glasses available for sale ($1.50 each) at park store locations.

Park staff and volunteers will be available to provide eclipse information and safe, facilitated viewing at the following locations from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:

  • Newfound Gap parking lot

  • Various locations around Cades Cove Loop Road, including near the John Oliver Cabin and at the Cades Cove Overlook

  • Outside the Oconaluftee Visitor Center
A Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book will be available for free at the above locations for anyone who wants to earn a Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer badge.
The next total eclipse visible from the United States will occur in 2044.
— Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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