RALEIGH, N.C. (April 21, 2022) – The N.C Wildlife Resources Commission is already seeing a spike in black bear reports this spring. This comes as no surprise since the state’s bear population has grown over the past 50 years and the residential footprint has grown. People are moving closer into bear habitat and creating increased opportunities for bears to approach their property, specifically by leaving out food sources.
Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, offers some advice about how to co-exist with black bears. She points to BearWise, a national educational program the Wildlife Commission employs that was developed by bear biologists.
“Most bears that wander into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat, particularly if no food source is around. By following the six BearWise Basics the public can prevent potential conflicts and live responsibly with bears.”
The six BearWise Basics are:
When asked about other tips, Olfenbuttel reiterated a few best practices.
“Attract birds and other pollinators rather than bears by removing bird feeders and using native plants, natural foods, shelter, water and safe nesting sites. Consider using a bear-resistant trash container, altering your current container to become bear-resistant, or securing your current trash container in building and putting it out the morning of pick-up. And lastly, talk to neighbors and consider becoming a recognized BearWise community or business. BearWise communities commit to co-existing responsibly with bears, securing all potential food sources and knowing when and how to report bear activity.”
North Carolina’s bear populations are concentrated in the Mountains and Coastal Plain, but the population is expanding into the Piedmont and sightings are increasingly common, usually in May, June and July. This is the time when young bears, called yearlings, are looking for a new home after being pushed away by the adult female as she begins breeding again.
“While these young bears, typically males, may appear to be wandering aimlessly around, they are not necessarily lost,” Olfenbuttel said. “Most are simply exploring their new surroundings and will move on, particularly if they are left alone and there is no food around.”
In almost all cases, the Wildlife Commission advises that the best option is a hands-off approach, allowing the bear to leave on its own.
The Wildlife Commission does not trap and relocate bears. There are no remote places to move bears and relocation can be treacherous for the bear, as they are unfamiliar with the new place and the food resources, causing them to attempt the journey back to where they were captured, which they consider home. During that journey, they encounter lots of dangers, including crossing busy roads, often resulting in vehicle-bear collisions. However, relocation is not needed, as human activities and behavior are usually the cause of the problem and the best solution is to implement the BearWise Basics.
For more information about living responsibly with black bears visit BearWise.org. For questions regarding bears and other human-wildlife interactions, contact the Commission’s NC Wildlife Helpline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., at 866-318-2401 or email HWI@ncwildlife.org.
Flordia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission