Unicoi County

Deputies warn drivers about bears and deer crossing I-26

Animals on highway

UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. - There's a warning for drivers after two bears were hit on Interstate 26 in Unicoi County.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says it's not uncommon during the fall for wildlife to be on the move, and the reason bears and deer are traveling right now is to prepare for winter.

It's a beautiful view on I-26 -- the mountains and the last glimpse of fall. But in Unicoi County there have been some problems lately. "We've been having a lot of deer and bears getting run over the past couple of days," said Matthew McNally with the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department.

That's why deputies are warning drivers to keep a close eye out. Wildlife officer Matt Cameron with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says breeding season is at its peak right now through December.

But that's only one reason why animals are on the move: "Right now the bears are feeding up for winter," Cameron explained.

The stretch between Exit 40 to 43, even up to the state line, is where most accidents are being reported and News 5 learned it's because it's a natural corridor for wildlife to travel.

The most dangerous time of day for drivers is at dawn and dusk. "Deer or bears are going to be bedded up during the daytime. They're going to come out just before dark," added Cameron.

The best advice is to slow down and not swerve into other lanes. But if you do manage to hit wildlife, you are required to report it. "I would advise you to pull over, call 911, and don't get out of the vehicle, especially if it's a bear. It could be mad and could attack you," said McNally.

Hitting a deer is an all-too-familiar story for Mondon Smith, and it was a very expensive lesson learned. "There's a chance you can lose control of the car and you can cause other damage to cars. So I guess that must be what's encouraging me to keep a vigorous eye out," he said.

News 5 did some digging and learned that in both Tennessee and Virginia if you hit a deer or bear and report it, the law says you can take the carcass home.

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