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Bear essentials about encountering one

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POSTED: April 10, 2007 5:15 a.m.
Black bear images spark a wide array of human emotions. Curiosity and awe come to mind for some; caution and fear emerge for others. When observed in populated areas, panic proves the most common reaction. Yet, as spring approaches and the likelihood of bear sightings increases, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) encourages residents to educate themselves by being “bear aware.”
As the human population continues to grow and expand, and as we settle into areas shared by a variety of wildlife species, including the black bear, it is only natural that we increasingly observe black bears in urban settings.
“A black bear sighting is something that few people ever forget — especially when it is in your backyard,” WRD Assistant Game Management Chief John W. Bowers said. “Human populations have grown and expanded into areas traditionally inhabited by bears and when conflicts arise, it is the bear that, unfortunately, is perceived as a threat or nuisance.”
“We encourage all Georgia citizens, especially those in known bear areas, to educate themselves about bears and bear behavior, be responsible and help prevent conflicts from occurring,” Bower said.
Black bears are most commonly found in three areas of the state — the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmuglee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeast. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas in search of food, especially in the spring, when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears are also known to roam larger areas in an effort to establish their own territory.
Because black bears are omnivorous, their diet consists of whatever food is readily available at any given time of year. Thus, black bears are reasonably attracted to the scents of human food, pet food, birdseed, beehives and even compost piles, especially in springtime, when natural food source availability is low. When bears can easily obtain such non-natural food sources, they begin to associate humans with food and as a result, lose their innate fear of humans. WRD encourages residents to heed the following tips in an effort to minimize bear attractants and lessen the likelihood of nuisance bears:
• NEVER, under any circumstances, feed a bear. Such activity is unlawful.
• Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders off-limits to bears. Clean and store grills when not in use, keep pet food indoors and take bird feeders down if bears are in the area.
• Make sure trashcans are bear-proof or kept indoors.
• When camping or picnicking, keep your site clean. Never leave food or coolers unattended. Never keep food in or near your tent. Store food in properly sealed containers and whenever possible, store these containers in a vehicle. If camping in backcountry areas, hang packs or food bags at least ten feet off the ground and at least four feet from the trunk of a tree.
For more information, contact a WRD Game Management Office or call (770) 918-6416.
 

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