It’s no secret that bears are resourceful - this video that went viral of one opening up a garage door to retrieve her cub is evidence of that. With many people in Georgia taking to the outdoors during the summer, the Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division in Social Circle, is giving information to campers on how to avoid a bear encounter. There are about 5,100 bears in the state and more than 75 campgrounds. These statistics increase the odds of a potential bear encounter.
In a press release, the DNR said whether roughing it in a tent or staying in a cabin, in the Georgia outdoors there is always a possibility of a bear encounter and there is one main key to avoiding the experience – properly stored food and garbage.
“Bears can become habituated to people when they are fed – whether intentional or not. When a bear knows it can get a ‘free meal,’ it will return again and again until eventually it loses its natural fear of humans. This is when the majority of human-bear conflicts occur, and the bear is labeled a nuisance,” said Adam Hammond, a wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.
Hammond said it is important not to leave food, drinks, coolers or garbage in the open. The same goes for some non-food items with strong odors, such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap. Keep all food and scented items secured inside a vehicle or cabin – not in a tent. Officials advise that when camping in the backcountry, place these items inside a knapsack and hoist it out of reach of bears and other wildlife – at least 10 feet off the ground and six feet from the tree trunk.
The DNR gave the following information on Georgia’s black bears:
Black bears commonly are found in three areas of the state - the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmulgee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state. However, it is not uncommon to run into a bear in other locations, especially in early spring and late summer, when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears sometimes move around to establish their own territory.
The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, the only bear found in the state and a high-priority species in the state’s conservation efforts. Though now the most common bear in North America, the black bear was nearly eradicated from Georgia by the 1930s because of unregulated market hunting, poaching and large-scale habitat loss through development. Wildlife management practices and conservation efforts, however, have helped restore Georgia’s black bear population numbers.
For more information regarding black bears, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/BlackBearFacts , contact a WRD Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416. The public also can visit their local library to check out a copy of an informational DVD entitled, “Where Bears Belong: Black Bears in Georgia.”