RALEIGH, NC -- With a rash of media reports of bear sightings across North Carolina, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding residents not to panic, keep their distance and remain calm if they see a black bear.
It is not uncommon to see a black bear in spring in North Carolina, as they look for mates, a home or food. Juvenile bears typically disperse from their home areas during this time of year, while adult bears can roam extensively searching for food. Residents are urged not to approach or follow bears, and to use caution when driving in areas where bears have been sighted.
The Commission is cautioning people to take care not to 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 and 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.
Contrary to popular belief, commission employees do not trap and relocate nuisance bears for the following reasons:
• 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 take its natural course. 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; 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.
If a bear's behavior is escalating to bold and threatening behavior towards people, commission staff will euthanize the bear. The following are examples of threatening behavior:
• The bear charges towards a person. This often occurs when people have cornered the bear or have placed themselves too close to the bear.
• The bear approaches a person directly, despite efforts to harass it away.
• The bear follows a person, despite efforts to harass it away.
Examples of bear behavior that is not threatening:
• Simply being in a neighborhood
• Standing on its legs. If a bear stands on its hind legs, it is attempting to see or smell.
• Vocalizations. If a bear feels threatened or stressed, it will start to vocalize, in the form of huffs, snorts, blowing, moans, and the popping of its jaw (a chomping sound). If a bear exhibits these behaviors, people should back away from the bear. Through visuals and sounds, the bear is telling you it is feeling threatened and you are too close.
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 "Preventing and Resolving Black Bear Conflicts" at www.ncwildlife.org.
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