Nothing to fear - black bear likely just passing through Triangle

dblustein@newsobserver.comJune 14, 2013 

North Carolina Daily Life

A black bear cub looks down from a tree it climbed next to US Highway 29 by the N.C. A&T University campus in Greensboro, N.C. on Wednesday May 29, 2013. A highway crew blocked the lane closest to the tree to slow traffic in case the cub climbed down and onto the highway. Two adult black bears have been struck and killed on Interstate 40 this month in nearby Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP Photo/News & Record, H. Scott Hoffmann)

H. SCOTT HOFFMANN — AP

  • The bear facts

    N.C. black bear population

    • In 1980: Less than 5,000

    • N.C. black bear population in 2011: More than 17,000

    Black bear sightings in Wildlife Commission District 3 (11 county region including Wake County)

    • 1992-1995: 0 sightings

    • 2011: 17 sightings

    What to do if you spot a black bear:

    1. Leave it alone and don’t panic.

    2. Observe at a safe distance and appreciate the opportunity to see one of N.C.’s largest native mammals.

    3. Do not feed the bear or unintentionally leave food out such as uncleaned grills, trash, bird feeders or pet food.

    4. Never chase, corner or approach a bear.

    5. Call the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-707-0050 to report the sighting. Only call 911 if there is immediate danger to humans or the bear.

  • More information

    Source: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

A black bear caused quite a stir in North Raleigh earlier this week, but experts say Triangle need not fear that there are too many others here.

It likely was a young male bear just passing through.

Bears seen in this area “probably wish they hadn’t made that last left turn and ended up in Raleigh,” said Roger Powell, professor emeritus in N.C. State University’s Department of Biology.

Law enforcement officials asked North Raleigh residents to be on the lookout Sunday after residents reported seeing a black bear in the Wakefield Pines area, north of Interstate 540.

Wakefield Pines resident Bob Door said he was shocked to see the bear ambling through his backyard.

“People go to the zoo to see animals like this, we have one in our yard,” Door said.

Scientists and police agree that bear sightings in the Raleigh area remain rare. But they may be happening a little more than in years past because of thriving bear populations, said Michael Stoskopf, a professor at NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Transient” male bears, recently departed from their mothers’ dens, can travel great distances to find a new home. On such a journey, they may bump into urban areas as they follow natural land formations such as rivers and lakes, said Ann May, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Falls Lake near the Sunday bear sighting might have been one such natural corridor.

Stoskopf suggested that the excitement a lone juvenile bear causes is likely disproportionate to the impact. And the risk to the public is low, May said.

“Black bears are inherently not dangerous,” she said.

Authorities emphasize that the most important action during a black bear encounter is to leave the animal alone and not panic. The bear is likely trying to get away from people, so it is best to retreat calmly.

To report a bear sighting, call the Wildlife Commission at 919-707-0050 rather than emergency services, unless there is imminent danger.

One Dunkin Donuts employee at the shopping center where the bear was spotted Sunday joked about the animal feasting on leftover donuts discarded in a dumpster at night. That could be a valid concern. The Wildlife Commission recommends securing trash in garages, limiting outdoor feeding of pets and birds, and thoroughly cleaning food and grease after using barbecue grills. Left untended, these may keep bears hanging around our neighborhoods.

And while Triangle residents are not likely to see a bear in their own backyards, they can get a close-up glimpse of these furry residents at the North Carolina Zoo’s “Bear Necessities” special event on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Black bears will be one of three bear species featured at the event, which includes keeper talks and information stations. There will also be a teddy bear clinic where young bear enthusiasts can bring their stuffed friends for a check up with a zoo veterinarian. Bear activities are free with paid admission to the zoo.

For more information about black bears in North Carolina, please visit: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Mammals/BlackBear.aspx

Blustein: 919-829-4627

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