Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic imagery and descriptions of predatory animal behavior.
CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a video posted to Facebook Monday, an Elizabethton man found a black bear in the middle of a hunt that left a whitetail deer fighting for its life.
According to the post, Dustin Tolley and a friend were boat fishing on Watauga Lake late Sunday night when they heard a noise in the dark. A commotion on the edge of the water drew their attention, and when they turned a flashlight on the area, they caught a glimpse of a grisly sight — a black bear dragging a fighting deer back into the woods with its teeth sunk into its prey’s flesh.
You can find the video below:
The encounter is a rare one in the Appalachian Mountains, since black bears seldom hunt large prey like adult deer, according the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA). In the video, the bear can been seen biting the back of the deer as it wrenches it away from the waterline.
Depending on the season, an average black bear finds most of its calories in the form of berries, acorns, roots and small animals, the TWRA reports. As omnivorous foragers, black bears usually don’t need to spend precious energy chasing and fighting more difficult prey.
“A black bear “hunting” large prey such as an adult deer is very uncommon,” said Dan Gibbs, leader of the TWRA’s Black Bear Program. “On the other hand, they will regularly take young animals such as deer fawns and elk calves.”
In Sunday night’s case, the bear pinned the deer to the ground near a small cliff along the waterfront.
“My guess is that this deer was incapacitated due to an injury,” Gibbs said. “And the bear took advantage of the opportunity.”
In recent years, some black bears throughout the region have become largely dependent on human trash and leftovers to survive. As an easy source of calorie-dense food, unlocked dumpsters and empty cars become targets of black bears and can even prove fatal for the animal.