'If you're feeding birds, you're feeding bears,' police warn NC town

Black bears in North Carolina are waking up, foraging for food and looking for love.

Habitat destruction and a rebounding black bear population in the state mean people might see more of wild residents.

Police in one North Carolina town are warning citizens how to avoid attracting black bears to their properties.

Lake Lure police said they've been getting "many calls" about bears near people's homes.

"Bear sightings are quite normal during this time of the year, when bears are starting to forage and look for mates," the police department wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday. "You'll see them in fields, out on the roadways and yes, even in your trash and on your porch."

Lake Lure police offered suggestions to avoid attracting the bears:

Don't put your garbage out the night before.

▪ Keep trash bags inside cans stored in a garage, basement or other secured area, if possible.

▪ Look into purchasing bear-proof garbage cans or garbage enclosures.

▪ Keep all garbage sites clean.

▪ If you see a bear, remain calm and leave it alone. Never feed, approach or surround a bear. Black bears tend to be shy and non-aggressive toward humans, but if frequently fed, bears can become dependent on human food, leading to more interactions with people.

▪ If you absolutely must feed your pets outside, make sure all food is consumed and empty bowls are removed.

▪ Clean all food and grease from barbecue grills after each use.

▪ Keep birdseed, bird feeders and hummingbird feeders where a bear can't reach.

▪ If a bear is in the area, remove all bird feeders — even those advertised as "bear proof."

▪ Don't leave bird seed outside.

"A bear will see this as a cafeteria," the department wrote. "If you're feeding birds, you're feeding bears. These brown, furry, awesome creatures love that bird seed you're leaving out."

The department also noted that wildlife officials and law enforcement will not trap and relocate bears.

"There are no remote places to move bears where they won’t come into contact with people. The solution is to modify your own habits."

Black bears are the only species of bear found in North Carolina or anywhere in the eastern United States.

"The successful comeback of the American black bear in North Carolina represents one of wildlife management's greatest achievements," according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Black bears were once restricted to remote areas and reached extremely low population levels in the mid-1900s. Today, black bears are found in about 60 percent of the total land area of North Carolina, focused mainly in the eastern and western parts of the state, though some venture into the Piedmont areas of central North Carolina.

For more information on black bears, go to ncwildlife.org/bear.

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