On Aug. 7, Woodstock Patch reported that a bear was spotted rummaging through a dumpster near the intersection of Hickory Road and Main Street. The report added that there have been additional recent bear sightings in the area and that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said there is a “healthy population of black bears” here.
Apparently, bears in this area remain active until going into hibernation around mid-December. So, even if no new reports come in, it is best to be on the lookout for the remainder of 2023.
Sharing Space With Bears
The presence of black bears in Cherokee County and farther north into the Georgia mountains is not a new occurrence. In 2022, our own Rob Macmillan of Rob’s Rescues interviewed Tori Reibel, education and communications coordinator of Appalachian Bear Rescue, an organization dedicated to caring for orphaned and injured black bear cubs (www.appalachianbearrescue.org). Some tips from the interview that remain important to community members today include:
What do you do if you see a bear?
Initially, talk to it. Let the bear know you are there. Then, slowly back away. Never ever run. Clap and wave your arms. Remain calm. If it is a brown bear, almost all the time, it will get out of there. They are shy. Grizzlies can be a bit more defensive. [Only black bears are found in Georgia.]
What is an interesting thing about bears?
Bears have a really good sense of smell. Bears often are portrayed as slow-moving foragers, but they are very quick and can run at speeds of about 35 mph. They are fast climbers, too.
How do you tell the difference between bears?
In our part of the world, we only have black bears. Physically, black bears also can be brown. The best way to differentiate between black bears and grizzlies is grizzly claws are longer and straight (to shovel and dig). Black bear claws are 1 to 2 inches long and are curved for climbing. Grizzly bears also have a very muscular hump on their shoulders.
What types of problems are bears facing?
In some cases, mother bears are poached, and we get lots of orphaned or abandoned bears. Most often, we deal with malnutrition and parasites, as well as injuries as a result of being hit by a car.
Be Bear Wise
Some tips from BearWise.org, an education program developed by state bear biologists and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
- Never feed or approach bears.
Feeding bears 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 odors attract bears. 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 the 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?