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OXFORD — Over the past two months, residents of the area have reported sightings of black bears.
Reports have come in from the vicinities of Will Suitt Road, Westbury Drive, Tall Pine Drive, Salem Farm Road, Military Street, Summitt Avenue, Northridge Drive and Shock Overton Road. Granville County Animal Management offers a reminder that while black bears are an important part of our natural surroundings, the increasing human population is causing a rise in interactions between these animals and local residents.
If left alone, these wandering bears will eventually leave. If frequently fed, however, bears may become dependent on human food, which may lead to increased interaction with people. Frequent human-bear contact can result in greater visibility in highly-populated areas and neighborhoods as bears become less fearful of people.
“Black bears are usually shy and non-aggressive,” explains Matt Katz, director of Granville County Animal Management. “With Granville County being an agriculturally-rich area, bears often come out of the woods to feed on crops, then may come closer to homes and neighborhoods. The key is to not leave food out that is easily accessible.”
While there have been no reports of unprovoked bear attacks in North Carolina, information from the N.C. Wildlife suggests that by following several basic tips, residents can learn to live responsibly with black bears. These tips include:
1. Never feed or approach bears. Feeding bears (intentionally or unintentionally) trains them to approach homes and people for more food. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.
2. Secure food, garbage and recycling. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily-available food or garbage.
3. Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed and other grains have a high calorie content, making them very attractive to bears. The best way to avoid conflicts with bears is to remove feeders.
4. Never leave out pet food. Feed outdoor pets portion sizes that will be completely eaten during each meal and remove any leftover food and food bowl. Securely store these foods so that nothing is available to bears.
5. Clean and store grills. After you use an outdoor grill, clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat is removed. Store cleaned grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.
6. Let neighbors know. Share news with your friends and neighbors about recent bear activity and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people – all residents need to ensure that they are willing to adapt to living near bears.
If any resident finds themselves in close proximity to a black bear, it is suggested to remain calm. Bears are usually wary of people unless they are provoked. Never feed, approach, surround or corner the bear, but back away slowly. Once at a safe distance, make lots of noise – such as clapping hands or blowing a car horn — to frighten the bear away.
It is important to note that the Wildlife Commission does not typically trap or relocate bears, and neither does Granville County Animal Control. According to information shared, there are simply no remote places to move bears where they would not eventually come into contact with people. The long-term solution, it is explained, is for residents in areas of black bear sightings to modify their behaviors to prevent potential problems.
“During the summer months, young males are often forced away by those that are larger and more dominant,” Katz adds. “Most of the ones seen in our area have been juvenile bears, looking for a place to go and for something to eat. We need to remember to leave them alone, and — by all means — don’t have food easily available for them, or they’ll be back.”
To learn more about black bears, visit ncwildlife.org/bear.