TWRA says Loudon Co. bear was likely illegally shot before hit by vehicle

GREENBACK, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A bizarre photo snapped in East Tennessee is circulating on social media. It shows a 300 pound black bear, dead, in the middle of Highway 411 in Loudon County.

But what happened just before its death has officers investigating.

"I thought it was a garbage bag at first, but I couldn't really tell. So I went back inside and got a flashlight, kinda walked over there and thought I saw some fur," said Shey Smith.

She and her mom, Carla, saw something they've never seen before outside of their home Sunday night.

"The police officer got here and he got out with a shotgun and that's the first thing he said. He said, 'That's a bear," Carla Smith said.

TWRA said the black bear had likely been hit by a car or truck. But before that, someone shot it with a bow and arrow. Because hunting season ended days before the animal died, officers are now investigating.

The person who shot the bear can face up to $500 dollars in fines and possible suspension of hunting privileges, according to TWRA.

Wildlife experts said this year bears are desperate to eat and will walk miles in search of food.

"It's very odd because I grew up here and never even seen a bear," Shey Smith said. "Especially around here, right on the highway. So it threw me off."

Smith and her mom have made animal rescues before. "We've picked up possums, skunks, dogs and cats," said Carla Smith

But never did they expect to come face-to-face with this animal.

"It was still partially warm, I even walked up and petted it, it was weird," Shey Smith said.