RALEIGH, N.C. (June 7, 2013) — With a rash of media reports of bear sightings across North Carolina, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding residents not to panic and to remain calm if they see a black bear. Bears are not inherently dangerous and seeing a bear can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for residents to appreciate from a safe distance.
It is not uncommon to see a black bear in spring in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Juvenile bears (1-2 yrs. old) are dispersing from their den’s home area, while adult bears can roam extensively searching for food and mates.
Juvenile bears may look small — in fact, some people refer to them as cubs — but they are not cubs and are well-equipped to live on their own. Sometimes a young bear finds its way accidentaly into a town when the natural corridor, river or drainage ditch it is traveling on leads into a town. This often happens at night, when human activity is low and vehicle traffic is light. However, at daybreak the bear finds itself in the middle of increasing human activities. If left alone by the public, most young transient bears will find their way quickly back out of the town and to their natural habitat. Residents are urged not to approach or follow bears, and to use caution when driving in areas where bears have been sighted. Commission biologists monitor these situations to determine if any action is needed to protect the animal.
If a bear is in a tree, residents are urged to clear the area and allow the bear to come down on its own and move on. A bear climbs a tree because it feels threatened by cars and people. It will come down after it no longer feels threatened, usually at night.
The Commission is cautioning peopleto not feed bears that wander into yards, parks, onto sidewalks or into other residential areas. Feeding a bear rewards it for coming near people and their homes, which increases the likelihood that the bear will approach again.
While black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, they can become bold when they grow accustomed to feeding on human-provided foods, such as pet foods, garbage and bird seed. When this happens, black bears can lose their fear of humans.
When reported to the Commission, interactions between humans and bears are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, the Commission does not normally relocate bears. Bears that wander into urban or suburban settings and seek refuge in trees will most likely leave the area on their own.
Relocationo f bears is rarely needed because:
· Most conflicts do not warrant trapping. For example, a bear simply wandering into a suburban area is not necessarily a safety issue. Bears can move long distances during dispersal,and it’s likely the animal will move on if left alone. The process of trapping and relocating bears is difficult, and can be more dangerous for the bear, the public, and those involved than letting the bear leave the area on its own. Bears are more likely to injure themselves, or threaten humans, during the course of trapping and relocation.
· Simply catching every bear that someone sees is not an option because there are few remote areas of the state remaining in which to relocate bears where they will not come into contact with humans.
· Relocated bears often return to the place they were originally captured.
· In many cases, food attractants are the source of the problem. The best long-term solution involves removal of attractants (bird feeders, unsecured garbage) rather than removal of the bear.
· Trapping and relocating bears attracted by food would simply move the problem, rather than solve it. The solution is to modify your habits and prevent bears from being attracted to your home.
Residents can avoid problems by:
- Securing bags of trash inside cans stored in a garage, basement or other secure area, and placing the cans outside, as late as possible, on trash pick-up days — not the night before.
- Purchasing bear-proof garbage cans or bear proofing your existing garbage container with a secure latching system.
- Discontinuing the feeding of wild birds during spring and summer, even with feeders advertised as “bear-proof.” Bears are still attracted to seed that spills on the ground.
- Avoiding “free feeding” pets outdoors. If you must feed pets outdoors, make sure all food is consumed and empty bowls are removed.
- Cleaning all food and grease from barbecue grills after each use. Bears are attracted to food odors and may investigate.
For more information and more tips on black bears in North Carolina, read “CoexistingWith Bears” at www.ncwildlife.org.