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Summer means more black bear encounters

The summer weather means beach trips, backyard cookouts, and pool parties. Just as humans are active this time of year, black bears are wandering about looking for food, mates, and new territory.

It’s not too often that a black bear is spotted in a residential neighborhood.  But here recently, there has been an increase in sightings.  A bear was seen near the ECU campus in Greenville and another was observed around Tucker Creek Middle School in Havelock.  

“I’m not surprised at all that people are seeing black bears in Pitt County where East Carolina University is, or anywhere in Craven County, or frankly any county here on the coast.”

District Wildlife Biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Chris Kent says as people continue to move closer to bear habitats, sightings are becoming more regular, especially during the summer months.  

“This is the time of year during the summer months which we consider black bear mating season. So black bears are actively mating during the summer.  Being large animals, they already have pretty large home ranges, so they cover a lot of territories. And during mating season the male black bears will expand their home range even more in search of suitable mates.”

 Kent adds that food is plentiful this time of the year, and black bears are always searching for an easy meal. 

“And if people have an abundance of food sources around their property, these animals are not going to hesitate to walk into a neighborhood to try to find food.”

Along with mating season and a search for food, the summer months are typically when cubs will disengage from their mother for the first time.  

 “Those young cubs are going out on their own now, they’re looking for food, they’re trying to remember all the places that Mom showed them.”

 According to the State Wildlife Resources Commission, black bears cover approximately 60 percent of the total land area in North Carolina, but the highest populations are found in the Mountains and the Coastal Plain.  Kent says black bear numbers are the greatest in Beaufort, Craven, Carteret, Pamlico, Pitt, Jones, and Onslow counties.

 “In eastern North Carolina, we have roughly between 12 and 15 thousand black bears, a very healthy population. We’ve got one of the highest densities of black bears here in, specifically in Northeastern North Carolina. We’ve got probably on par with some of the largest black bears in the entire world”

The summer weather means more people are outdoors - and a greater likelihood of seeing a black bear. So, what should you do if you see one on your property?  The number one tip, Kent says, is to never approach or feed bears. 

 “I’ve been working closely with the police department in Havelock and animal control in Havelock, they reach out to me every time there’s a sighting of a bear in someone’s yard or things like that, and we work closely together.  I know for a fact that some of the locations that the bear was being spotted, or even bears because it might be multiple bears, people were putting food out in their backyard for animals like either piles of cracked corn, peanuts, things like that.”

 There are several things that you can do to help prevent bears from coming into your backyard.

 “My agency worked closely with other southern wildlife agencies to create a website to help people that live in black bear country know what to do and what not to do.” 

 That website is www.bearwise.org.  The website mentions things like making sure your garbage and recycling containers are secure, never leaving pet food outside, and cleaning and storing your grill after you use it.  

“Being that black bears are very active this time of year, I encourage everybody, you know, take all your bird seed feeders down, you know, there’s an abundance of natural food items on the landscape right now for songbirds”. 

 If a black bear comes on your property, Kent recommends giving them plenty of space and just letting them be wild animals. 

 “I can’t name one person that I know of that has been harmed by a black bear in an unprovoked attack”  

But for those that want  to see black bears, Kent suggests driving around Croatan National Forest around sunrise or sunset when bears are most active. 

My name is Jake Anthony, and I will be a senior at Elon University in the fall. I am a strategic communications major with a double minor in business administration and finance.