Wildlife officials capture black bear in West Tennessee

Tennessee wildlife officers caught on Thursday what could be one of two black bears seen wandering in West Tennessee after straying from Arkansas.

Gary Cook, regional manager for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in Jackson, said authorities tranquilized a 140-pound female black with a collar and an ear tag.

Clay Riley, an officer of the TWRA, shot the bear with a dart gun after it was sighted in Paris, a city of about 10,000 people 20 miles south of the Kentucky border, several times Wednesday and Thursday.

"She's fine," he said. "She's in good health."

Wildlife officials received several sightings this month of a black bear wandering throughout northwest Tennessee including Dyersburg and Martin.

Black bears are more commonly found in East Tennessee in the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"The last black bears that occurred naturally in West Tennessee was in the 1800s," Cook said.

The removal of forest land for agricultural purposes reduced the natural habitat of black bears, he said. The bear was transported to the Memphis Zoo and eventually will be returned to its home in the White River area of Arkansas, near the Louisiana border, Cook said.

Officials believe that the bear they caught could have been accompanied by a smaller bear without a collar, possibly a cub.

Cook said that although they couldn't be certain that there were two since they were never seen together, authorities will remain on the lookout in case the capture draws out another one.