RALEIGH — The recent encounter with a female bear and three cubs in Maggie Valley and last week’s multiple sightings of a black bear passing through a busy neighborhood in Raleigh have prompted the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to remind the public that people can co-exist peacefully with bears by following basic safety guidelines.
First and foremost, never feed a black bear — intentionally or unintentionally. Bears are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything. Bears are particularly attracted to human garbage, pet food and other human-associated foods, including bird seed. For this reason, if a bear is in the area, people should remove bird feeders and hummingbird feeders, even those advertised as “bear-proof.” They also should:
•Secure bags of trash inside cans stored in a garage, shed or other secure area;
•Place trash outside as late as possible on trash pick-up days — not the night before;
•Remove leftover food as well as empty bowls, if feeding pets outdoors; and,
•Clean all food and grease from barbeque grills after each use. Bears are attracted to food odors and may investigate.
Black bears, by nature, are not aggressive animals yet they can inspire fear, anxiety, and even fascination, in people who encounter them unexpectedly, such as the residents of the Five Points neighborhood in Raleigh who spotted what was likely a juvenile male bear looking for a place to call home.
May, June and July are the times when bears start showing up in more populated areas where they’re not normally seen, according to Colleen Olfenbuttel, black bear biologist with the commission. These young bears, called transient bears, are usually young males who have spent the first year and a half of their lives with the adult female bear and suddenly find themselves pushed away as the female begins breeding again.
When the Wildlife Commission receives a report of a transient bear in an area, staff members assess the situation to determine if the bear poses a threat to public safety or property, or if the bear is significantly threatened. In almost all cases, the Wildlife Commission advises that the best approach is a hands-off approach, allowing the bear to leave on its own.
Additionally, residents can:
•Sprinkle ammonia or other strong disinfectants on garbage cans to make the odor and taste of food undesirable;
•Install electric fencing, which will protect beehives, dumpsters, gardens, compost piles and other potential food sources; and,
•Talk to neighbors to ensure everyone in the community is learning about co-existing with bears and working together to prevent conflicts between bears and humans.
For more information on co-existing with bears safely, visit the black bear page on the commission’s website, ncwildlife.org.
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