What’s With All the Bears?

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We have been seeing many reports on social media lately regarding bear sightings and even nuisance issues with bears in residential neighborhoods. So what’s with all these bears and what can you do about them?

First, it is important to note that the black bear is the only bear species found in North Carolina. As a general rule, they are very non-aggressive and prefer to avoid contact with humans. During the mid 1900s, population levels of black bear sank very low in North Carolina. Wildlife management plans were developed to restore the population levels of this important species. Today, black bears are found throughout our region. While this represents a victory in wildlife management, the increasing human population presents some of the challenges we see today in coexisting with the black bear.

Again, generally these animals are more wary of humans than we are of them. However, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and maintain an attitude of healthy respect. If you are living in close proximity to bears, below are some important measures you should take.

First and foremost, do not feed bears! This is rewarding the bear for coming into a residential area and encouraging them to approach people. This can cause serious safety issues for the bear as well as other humans.

Along those same lines, be sure you have removed or secured any potential food sources. Store garbage in areas bears cannot access. Take cans out for collection only on the day of service. Latch garbage cans. Do not leave pet food out overnight. And clean your outdoor grill thoroughly to remove food and grease residues.

Additionally, talk to your neighbors. One person’s actions can affect the entire neighborhood. Alert neighbors of the bear and ensure that no one is intentionally or unintentionally feeding black bears.

If you happen upon a bear at close range, don’t panic. Stay calm and make the bear aware of your presence by making noise. Do not approach the bear, but back up and walk away. Most likely, the bear will be frightened and run or climb a nearby tree.

For more information on coexisting with black bears, view this publication http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/documents/Species/CoexistWithBears.pdf  produced by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Photo courtesy of NC Wildlife Resources Commission