While many animals remain “hidden” throughout the winter months, spring brings wildlife, including black bears, back into view. Make sure you are BearWise and know what to do when a bear makes an appearance this spring, encourages the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (GADNR WRD).

Do you know what to do if you see a bear? The “At Home BearWise Basics” helps get you prepared:

  • 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!
  • Secure Food, Garbage and Recycling: Food and food odors attract bears so don’t reward them with easily available food or garbage.
  • 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.
  • Never Leave Pet Food Outdoors: Feed outdoor pets portion sizes that will be completely eaten during each meal and then remove leftover food and food bowl. Securely store these foods so nothing is available to bears.
  • 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.
  • Alert Neighbors To Bear Activity: Share news with your friends and neighbors about recent bear activity and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; are you willing to adapt to living near bears?

“Being BearWise means that there is nothing around our home or business that will attract bears and serve as a ‘free lunch,’” says Hammond. “This may seem harmless but bears that have access to human-provided foods often become dependent upon people, leading to destructive behavior and eventually to the bear’s demise. We can avoid this cycle.”

The black bear, a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, is the only bear found in the state and is a conservation success story. Though now the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia in the 1930s due to unregulated hunting, illegal harvest, and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management has restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 4,100 bears statewide.

BearWise is an education program developed by state bear biologists, anchored by the website www.bearwise.org, that offers citizens specific, detailed, and high-quality information, engaging education pieces and more.

Black bears may legally be taken during the bear hunting season, which occurs each fall in Georgia (GeorgiaWildlife.com/hunting/hunter-resources). Killing bears outside of the hunting season or illegally during hunting season should be reported to Law Enforcement at gadnrle.org/ranger-hotline.

For more information on living responsibly with bears, visit Bearwise.org.