“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” That’s a famous quote from the 1939 classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” But while there have not been any lion or tiger sightings in Upson County recently, there have been a few bear sightings, and those sightings have some people worried.
But Corporal Susan Morris, the Department of Natural Resources Ranger for Upson County, said people need to view the sightings as “a great thing to see, not a scary thing.”
Morris said it is unusual to see bears in this area.
“The Sheriff’s Office has been getting a couple of calls, and so have I, of people out in the county who have seen a bear recently,” she said. “We don’t normally have a population of bears, but every now and then some do move through the area. Most people aren’t used to it, so as soon as they see it, they’re frightened, so they feel like they need to call the Sheriff’s Office.
“The majority of the calls that have come in are people worried about their children and their grandchildren,” she added. “But bears eat insects, grubs and berries. They don’t traditionally hunt people. They don’t go out to eat people. They are very docile, timid creatures. They are more afraid of humans than we are of them.”
Regardless of whether bears are just passing through or perhaps are newfound residents of the community at large, the best way to avoid problems is to minimize the availability of non-natural, human-provided food, according to the Wildlife Resource Division of the DNR. While there is no way to prevent a bear from wandering into a neighborhood, there are ways to discourage it from staying:
• Never feed a bear. Keep items such as grills, pet food and bird feeders off-limits to bears. Properly securing food and garbage prevents bears from accessing these non-natural, human-provided food sources, and helps avoid the unhealthy process of habituation that occurs when bears easily obtain food from people and begin associating humans with food.
• Leave all bears alone. Usually, they are only passing through an area.
• Stay a safe distance away,.
• Never, under any circumstances, intentionally feed a bear.
• Never attempt to ‘tree’ or corner a bear as it compromises the safety and welfare of both the public and the bear.
“Unless there is evidence of aggressive behavior or habituation to people there is no real cause for alarm,” said Adam Hammond, state bear biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division.
For more information regarding black bears, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/blackbearfacts or contact a Wildlife Resources Division game management office.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.