RALEIGH — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission advises that black bear sightings across the state become more common as warmer weather approaches.
Black bears are emerging from winter hibernation and may be sighted moving through residential areas as they search for food. North Carolina’s bear populations are concentrated in the mountains and coastal plain, but rare sightings sometimes occur in Piedmont towns. While black bears are not inherently dangerous and rarely aggressive towards humans, the Commission advises caution and using common sense to reduce the potential for problems.
If left alone, most bears that have wandered into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat. Humans should not approach or follow bears, or put themselves between a bear and its possible escape route.
“A bear passing through a neighborhood can cause a lot of excitement,” said Ann May, program coordinator for the Centennial Campus Center for Wildlife Education. “But people should give bears plenty of room to allow it to move out of the area freely. Crowding around a bear can lead to a dangerous situation.”
The Commission advises people to not feed bears, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Bears accustomed to feeding on pet food, table scraps, garbage and birdseed can lose their fear of humans, which could result in property damage.
To avoid problem interactions with bears:
• Use garbage cans or trash containers with a secure latching system.
• Keep trash indoors as late as possible on pick-up days — don’t put trash curbside the night before.
• Take down birdfeeders, even those advertised as “bear-proof.”
• If you feed pets outside, make sure all food is consumed and empty bowls are promptly removed.
“It’s also a good idea to clean food and grease from barbecue grills after each use,” May said. “Bears are attracted to food odors, so you don’t want to dispose of grease or cooking oil nearby. Be careful with food and food odors in vehicles, as well.”
The Wildlife Commission rarely traps and relocates bears. Relocation can be dangerous to personnel and the bear, and relocated bears often return to where they were originally captured. For more information, go to [www.ncwildlife.org/bear ]www.ncwildlife.org/bear or call 919-707-0050.