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Bears search parks for food
0726 black bear
A young black bear searches for food in a garbage can. Bears rummaging for food is becoming a common problem in Georgia parks. - photo by Photo provided.

SOCIAL CIRCLE — Bears in Georgia, a more common sight in spring and summer, sometimes find themselves in unfortunate circumstances in the pursuit of an "easy" meal. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, there have been at least four North Georgia bears with their heads caught in a variety of objects in recent years — from a tin milk can to a plastic pickle bucket.

"While at first the incident seems somewhat humorous, depending on the object and the bear itself, it can be a life-threatening situation," says Division Region Supervisor Ken Riddleberger.

"Bears that grow accustomed to finding non-natural food sources, such as pickle remnants or other garbage, often become labeled a nuisance bear and lead to problems for homeowners, business owners and the animal."

One young male bear, head encased in a plastic pickle bucket, received a lot of attention this year as it traveled more than 48 miles in 90-degree heat. He was sighted multiple times over a four-week period, beginning in June, in the following locations: Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Cleveland, Clarkesville and just outside Unicoi State Park in Helen.

Division personnel responded multiple times in an effort to free the bear from the jar, but he proved elusive. Finally, in early July two division personnel were able to locate the animal and tranquilize it. The jug was successfully removed and the animal was released alongside a creek in Union County.

In almost all of these cases, it is believed that the bear sticks its head into a container to investigate smells or eat edibles left inside.

These recent events have prompted the division to issue these reminders should a bear be sighted in your area:

• Never, under any circumstances, feed a bear.

• 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.

• Convert to "bear-proof" garbage containers, or store garbage in the garage or other enclosed areas until pick-up day.

• Do not approach a bear. Bears are wild animals and therefore unpredictable.

• If a bear has been sighted in your area, be sure to strictly observe all of the above tips to make sure your activities are not contributing to the issue.

For more information on bears and bear-proofing in Georgia, visit or call the Game Management office at 770-535-5700.

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