Meeting in special session, the city council addressed complaints from the community and the need to remind residents and visitors alike that black bears, which have attracted hundreds of tourists to the Tri-City area in recent years, are most prevalent throughout the city during late night and early morning hours.
"We need to let our city know that we are aware of the bears and we need to put out a notice to stay away from the bears, because we don't want nobody hurt," said councilman Bennie Massey.
Massey said the two bears reportedly seen in neighborhoods recently still appear to be afraid of noise or human presence.
"They're not attacking anybody, but we've got to be ready in case," he said. "We've got to get our heads together on what we're going to do."
Councilman Carl Collins inquired about what force is legally allowed against black bears if a life appears to be in danger.
"Are we authorized to kill a bear? Have you ever asked the game warden, 'What is your particular force ... that you can use under the law?'" Collins asked Lynch Chief of Police Dale Halcomb, who explained that only life-threatening situations merit lethal action.
"The only time we have the right to actually put an animal down is if it is endangering public safety," said Halcomb, who estimated from community reports that the bears range between 300 and 600 pounds. "It would have to be putting someone in imminent danger of loss of life or limb. ... That goes for dogs. That goes for pretty much any kind of animal."
Halcomb said he has been in contact with state Fish and Wildlife officials, who have been in the city observing bear activity "24 hours a day" for the last three weeks.
Halcomb said community complaints have centered around trash disturbances and that black bears do not appear to be becoming more aggressive for food, but "more acclimated to depending on our citizens' garbage as a food source." He recommended, with the mayor's approval, that police cruisers be equipped with shotguns for precautionary measures.
"We have no firepower that could bring down a bear," Halcomb said.
Any force against a black bear, Halcomb emphasized, would be used "in accordance" with Fish and Wildlife regulations. He said the city will be ordering at least three shotguns, which Mayor Bob Collier approved.
Halcomb also said he has recommended that the Benham School House Inn, which helps manage the RV park in Lynch, inform visitors of the city's bear problem and reinforce how to properly dispose of food scraps.
"I think that we need to make our visitors aware, because most of our population here knows that we have a bear (problem)," he said.