Bear sightings up in Orange County; tips to avoid unwanted encounters

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Are you bear-wise?

In the past few weeks, biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said they have experienced an uptick in calls from people who are seeing bears in neighborhoods.

Biologists said that this is the time of year when bears are on the move as they search for food sources and yearling bears are looking for a new home.

A spokesperson for Orange County said they are experiencing some recent bear sightings

"We know in years past, bear sightings have been cause for public alarm, so we are hoping to spread this knowledge so that residents are prepared and understand that there is generally little to be concerned about if everyone is acting responsibly and taking precautions when one is spotted," said Tenille Fox, Orange County Animal Services communications specialist.

Last July, a bear was spotted near downtown Durham.

Bear sightings reported in Garner, Clayton
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A bear that had been spotted all across central North Carolina including in Garner, near Lake Wendell and in Clayton died recently after being hit by a car.

The Wildlife Commission said there are some basic rules to minimize unwanted encounters with bears.

The first - and most important - is to never feed or approach a bear.

Feeding bears trains them to look for food by approaching homes and people. Bears are particularly attracted to birdseed, hummingbird feeders, garbage and other human-associated foods, such as pet food.

Going to the beach? You might spot a bear there, too

"If you see a bear in your yard, your neighborhood, in the woods, wherever, don't try to feed or approach the bear - we can't stress this enough," said Colleen Olfenbuttel, the agency's black bear biologist. "Approaching or cornering a bear can unnerve it, perhaps causing it to act defensively."

In addition to not leaving food or food residue in areas where bears are known to occasionally dwell, it's important to alert your neighbors if you see a bear.

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If you're in an area where bears definitely roam, you might consider extra security steps, such as installing an electric fence or using a bear-resistant trash can.

"Human activities and behavior are usually the cause of the problem and the best solution is to implement the BearWise Basics," Olfenbuttel said. "There are no remote places to move bears and relocation can be treacherous for the bear, as they are unfamiliar with the new place and where the food resources are. They will often try to return to where they were originally captured, encountering a variety of hazards such as dominant bears, human development, and major roadways in the process."

Still have questions regarding bears and other human-wildlife interactions? Call the Commission's N.C. Wildlife Helpline toll-free at (866) 318-2401 to leave a voicemail during operating hours or email the Helpline at wildlifehelpline@ncwildlife.org.
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