The Bear. Image courtesy of Mary Gibson.
An Atlanta resident recently had a bear-y strange encounter.
Mary Gibson, who has lived near the intersection of Howell Mill and Peachtree Battle for about eight years, was shocked earlier this week when she found an unusual guest wandering through her property – a young black bear.
Gibson says her driveway has an alert system that triggers when someone is approaching, and the alarm was tripped around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. She said she turned the lights on expecting to see a neighbor’s dog or maybe a raccoon, but was startled to see the bear shambling towards her home.
“We had all the outside lights on, but that didn’t seem to scare it off,” Gibson told Atlanta Loop. “It worked its way around to the back of the house – it had to climb over a little picket fence – and then it went straight for the bird feeders.”
A stunned Gibson called for her husband, and they both wondered what to do about their visitor. After taking some pictures, they got in touch with their neighborhood watch, who told them to contact the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Walter Lane, assistant chief of the Game Management section of the DNR says there are three main populations of black bears in Georgia, one in the north Georgia mountains, one along the Ocmulgee River drainage system in the middle part of the state and one in the Okefenokee Swamp to the south. The largest population by far is are the bears in the mountains, and that population’s reach is growing.
“While it’s not every day there’s a bear in metro Atlanta, they do move around, and they move large distances,” Lane told Atlanta Loop. “It’s not uncommon to have one come to Atlanta. We’ve had it happen several times this year.”
The reason for this, Lane says, is likely that the range of the northern bears is expanding due to increased developments in north Georgia communities; however, it’s not something to be overly concerned with. As long as the bear is still afraid of humans and not aggressive, DNR sees no reason to intervene.
It’s understandable, though, that many people would still want to avoid interacting with a bear. To prevent unwanted visitors, Lane says it’s important to not leave pet food outside, to only hang bird feeders seasonally and to invest in strong, secure trash cans. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will wander from one food source to another, often covering great distances.
Lane encourages people to visit bearwise.org to learn more about bears, their behaviors and how to avoid encountering one.
After getting over the initial shock, Gibson says her encounter wasn’t that frightening, and she didn’t do anything to scare the bear off – she and her husband just watched him finish making a meal of their bird seed and shamble away.
“I’m not terribly worried about it,” Gibson laughed, “but I’ll probably think twice before I take the trash out at night.”