Whether you’re roughing it in a tent or staying in a comfy cabin, camping in Georgia includes the possibility of encountering a black bear. With more than 75 campgrounds and an estimated 5,100 black bears in the state, campers should always be aware and prepared. The key to preventing an unfavorable experience: Properly store all food and garbage.
“Bears can become habituated to people when they are fed – whether intentional or not. When a bear knows it can get a ‘free meal,’ it will return again and again until eventually it loses its natural fear of humans. This is when the majority of human-bear conflicts occur, and the bear is labeled a nuisance,” explained Adam Hammond, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
When camping, proper food storage means leaving no food, drinks, coolers or garbage in the open. Even non-food items with strong odors, such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap, should be secured.
Keep all food and scented items secured inside a vehicle or cabin – not in a tent. When camping in the backcountry, place these items inside a knapsack and hoist it out of reach of bears and other wildlife – at least 10 feet off the ground and six feet from the tree trunk.
Bears in Georgia
Black bears commonly are found in three areas of the state - the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmulgee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas; especially in early spring and late summer, when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears are also known to disperse in an effort to establish their own territory.
The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, the only bear found in the state and a high-priority species in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive conservation strategy. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia by the 1930s due to unregulated market hunting, poaching and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management practices have restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 5,100 bears statewide.
For more information regarding black bears, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/BlackBearFacts , contact a WRD Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416. The public also can visit their local library to check out a copy of an informational DVD entitled, “Where Bears Belong: Black Bears in Georgia.”
Editor’s Note: Photos of black bears available by contacting Melissa Cummings at 706.557.3326 or Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org .