You May Be Wise, But Are You Bearwise?

Social Circle, GA
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 08:00

Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) offices receive and respond to more than 1,200 calls about black bears each year.

The vast majority of these calls represent only minor situations that, at least initially, were entirely avoidable.

BearWise is an education program recently developed by bear biologists from each of the 15 state wildlife agencies that make up the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The program, anchored by the website www.bearwise.org, offers citizens specific, detailed, and high-quality information to help people live responsibly with bears and to keep bears wild.

“Avoiding problems with bears is usually not that difficult, and is often quite simple, though it may not always be convenient,” says Adam Hammond, WRD’s state bear biologist. “We encourage people to check out the BearWise website, especially the six BearWise Basics, to learn more about what it means to coexist with these magnificent animals and to be bearwise.”

The Six 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 OUT: 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.
  • LET NEIGHBORS KNOW: 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?

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 in 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.

Black bears may legally be hunted during the season, which occurs each fall in Georgia in certain areas (http://www.eregulations.com/georgia/hunting/bear-turkey-feral-hog-alligator-small-game). 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 reporting any illegal activity. Information can be reported by email, phone or in person. Visit http://gadnrle.org/ranger-hotline for details.

For more information on how to live responsibly with bears, visit http://bearwise.org.

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