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WARNING: What to do during a bear encounter


SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Bears continue to be seen throughout Sylacauga and Talladega County.

Just over a week ago, on Aug. 3, an Oak Grove man caught a black bear in his front yard going through his trash can on Mountain View Lake Rd.

Just last week, Sylacauga City Councilman Ashton Fowler reported a bear sighting in Taylor Estates on social media.

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation (DOC), Alabama’s black bear (Ursus americanus) population was once rich across the entire state.

One of the biggest problems pertaining to the public and black bears, according to the DOC is caused by baiting. Whether it’s feeding wildlife in your back yard or spreading bait in front of trail cameras, black bears tend to hang around bait as long as it is available. If you don’t want black bears scaring away your wildlife, stop feeding. Feeding can also cause black bears to lose their cautious nature toward humans. They will begin to associate humans with food, which increases the chance of a human and bear encounter. Generally speaking, nuisance bears result from conditioned feeding associated with people.

The Sylacauga Police Department recently sent out a warning saying, “The most important thing to remember is not to interact with the bear. Give it space and calmly and quietly leave the area.”

But what do you do if you encounter a bear. With the amount of sightings recently, there is a chance you will encounter a bear. Check out this video from Outdoor Alabama to learn how to avoid conflicts with bears.

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The National Parks Service also offers the following tips:

  • Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  • Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
  • Pick up small children immediately.
  • Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
  • If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
  • Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

It is illegal to shoot a black bear in the state of Alabama. Report all Talladega County bear sightings to the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District Office at 256- 435-5422.

Jeremy Law for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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