MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (8/7/13) – Wednesday morning began as an average day for Fitzhugh and Janet Rhoades. The retired couple enjoys a quiet life in Green Lea Estates subdivision on Saint James Way, just off Highway 62 in Central City.
But things were less than quiet Wednesday, August 7th, once word got out that an extremely rare sighting of a black bear occurred right in their own backyard.
"This morning my husband went out to get the morning paper. He came back and sat on the patio. At that time I didn't know anything about it. He came in the kitchen and told me to come in the living room and sit down, that he had something that was really going to shock me. He turned on the DVD player and there was a black bear, eating corn out of our squirrel feeder in the backyard. We watched it, totally amazed, and by this time the bear had disappeared into the woods." Mrs. Rhoades said.
Mr. Rhoades, a retired coal miner, said, "It was about 6:20 a.m. when he first looked up from his morning newspaper and saw the bear. I couldn't believe. It about blew my mind."
Mrs. Rhoades was even more surprised when the bear returned for a second helping from the feeder.
"I figured the little guy was gone for good, but a few minutes later I looked out the kitchen window and there he was again. I told Fitzhugh, 'I'm going to call the police.' I called and got the dispatcher. I said, 'This is Janet Rhoades and I've got a black bear in my backyard.'
To their credit, she said, the central dispatch took the call very seriously, in spite of the fact that this was most likely the first time the Muhlenberg 911 post ever received such a call.
"They put me on hold for a minute. Then she came back on the line and said 'There will be some policemen out there in about two minutes.' In no time they showed up. They found it as hard to believe as we did. Soon after that the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials from the McLean County office arrived. also found it hard to figure out how a bear most commonly found in the mountainous areas of Eastern Kentucky and the Smokey Mountain area of Tennessee wandered so far from its native area.
Several Evansville area television news teams spent much of the day interviewing the Rhoades. Mrs. Rhoades joked that, "For one day we're going to be famous." she said with a big laugh.
"But seriously, we just love animals. Our favorite channel is Animal Planet, and we just hope nothing bad happens to the bear before he gets out of the area. I just hope it runs off." Mrs. Rhoades said.
There have been bear sightings in the McLean, Daviess, and other surrounding areas, but as far as wildlife officials and law enforcement could confirm, this is the first sighting of a wild bear anywhere in Muhlenberg County.
Central City Police Chief Brent Roberson told Surfky.com News "We received the call early this morning and several officers responded. I've talked to people who have lived here all their lives, 70 or 80 years, and none of them could remember this ever happening."
Roberson added that "At this time we are still looking for the bear. If you do see it, do not approach it. Call us at 270-754-2464.”
Roberson stressed that unless your life is directly threatened, it is against the law to shoot a bear.
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