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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Low acorn production in the higher elevations of the Smokies increases the likelihood this fall of bears turning up in developed areas, a University of Tennessee wildlife professor said Tuesday.

 Dr. Michael Pelton said acorns, a favorite food of the black bear, are scarce in the higher elevations. In the lower elevations a fair crop is reported.

 “I don’t think there’s going to be enough food to hold all the bears in place,” Pelton said. “There are just too many of them.”

 With acorns in short supply in some areas, bears will move to find food, Pelton said.

 “Those bears that are higher up are going to move down in search of food,” Pelton said. “That’s beginning to happen, based on the calls I have been getting.”

 Pelton said he has had calls from Cosby, Gatlinburg and Walland.

 Acorns, especially those of the white oak, are a staple food of black bears as they fatten themselves for winter.

With 500 to 700 bears in the Smokies, the population has never been higher in the 30 years since UT began studying the animals, Pelton said.

 Contact: Dr. Michael Pelton (423-974-7126)