KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Following nearby sightings on the premise and in the nearby area, Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is reminding Kingsport residents to practice safety in the event they run across a bear.

Park officials say the best way to coexist with bears is to stay away from them.

“Leave them alone and don’t feed them,” Megan Krager, manager of Bays Mountain Park, said in a release. “The only reason they’re coming into our area is because they can smell the tasty treats we have around our homes.”

According to the release, it is not uncommon for Kingsport residents to see a black bear wandering through the city due to the park’s nearby presence. Neighborhoods specifically mentioned by park officials include Ridgefields, Sullivan Gardens and Meadowview.

Recently, park officials said bears were seen in the areas of Lynn Garden and Brookside Drive.

“We are getting calls of bears popping up in the neighborhoods and we’re also getting reports of bear sightings throughout the park,” Krager said. “We even saw a juvenile bear in the parking lot of the park, which is a first for me.”

A possible explanation for the increased bear sightings is the harsh freeze that occurred in May, the release states. As a result of the abnormal cold, some of the vegetation the bears would typically feed on died, and the bears are now ranging into city limits looking for food.

The release states that neither the city, Petworks Animal Services nor the Kingsport Police Department responds to manage bears. Residents are encouraged to simply leave the bears alone and take precautions to keep from attracting them. Additionally, residents are specifically warned to make sure they do not find themselves between a mother bear and her cubs.

The park offered the following tips:

– Leave them alone and give them plenty of space.

– The best way to scare off a bear is to make noise by banging on something or yelling.

– If you have a compost pile, pour some lime or wood ash on it. It helps contain the odors.

– Keep your trash cans locked in a garage or other building during the night.

– Pour a small amount of ammonia in the bottom of your garbage cans. The smell will help drive away bears and other animals.

– Bird feeders and pet food should be brought inside at night and outdoor grills should be stored inside a garage.

– Try and locate gardens, orchards, pet kennels and bee hives a safe distance from your house.