Warmer Spring temperatures means you might get a chance to see all types of wildlife that have not been as visible throughout the winter months, and that includes possible sightings of black bears.
“Are you BearWise?” asks the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Upon emerging from hibernation and leaving their winter dens, bears are ready to find food, and that can sometimes put them a little too close to people,” says Adam Hammond, state bear biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division. “As good wildlife stewards, we can help keep bears from getting too close to our homes and our businesses by becoming ‘BearWise’ and learning to live responsibly with bears.”
What is BearWise? It is an education program developed by state bear biologists, anchored by the website www.bearwise.org, that offers citizens specific, detailed, and high-quality information, starting with the Six At Home BearWise Basics:
- NEVER FEED OR APPROACH BEARS: Feeding bears (intentionally or unintentionally) trains them to approach homes and people for more food. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!
- SECURE FOOD, GARBAGE AND RECYCLING: Food and food odors attract bears so don’t reward them with easily available food or garbage.
- REMOVE BIRD FEEDERS WHEN BEARS ARE ACTIVE: Birdseed and other grains have a high calorie content making them very attractive to bears. The best way to avoid conflicts with bears is to remove feeders.
- NEVER LEAVE PET FOOD OUTDOORS: Feed outdoor pets portion sizes that will be completely eaten during each meal and then remove leftover food and food bowl. Securely store these foods so nothing is available to bears.
- CLEAN AND STORE GRILLS: After you use an outdoor grill, clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat is removed. Store cleaned grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.
- ALERT NEIGHBORS TO BEAR ACTIVITY: Share news with your friends and neighbors about recent bear activity and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; are you willing to adapt to living near bears?
“Being BearWise means that we do our due diligence to ensure there is nothing around our home or business that will attract bears and serve as a ‘free lunch,’” says Hammond. “This may seem harmless but bears that have access to human-provided foods often become food-dependent upon people, ultimately leading to destructive behavior and eventually to the bear’s demise. We want to avoid this cycle.”
The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity as it is the only bear found in the state and is a conservation success story. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia in the 1930s due to unregulated hunting, illegal harvest - including the killing of bears as “vermin,” and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management practices have restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 4,100 bears statewide.
Black bears may legally be taken during the hunting season, which occurs each fall in Georgia (https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/hunter-resources). However, the taking of bears during any other time of the year, or the taking of bears illegally during the hunting season, is called poaching. Prevent poaching of bears (by email, phone or in person) by reporting any illegal activity. Visit https://gadnrle.org/ranger-hotline for more information.
For more information on living responsibly with bears, visit www.bearwise.org.