Multiple Gainesville residents reported bear sightings Friday morning following an unsuccessful trapping effort Thursday afternoon.
But Kevin Lowrey, a wildlife biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, said there’s not much he can do while the bear is on the move.
“You can’t just go out and dart the thing while it’s on the run,” he said.
He said the bear needs to find its way up a tree or into an enclosed area before it can be trapped.
Lowrey thought he had an opportunity to catch the bear Friday morning when it stayed at one resident’s bird feeder on Tanglewood Drive for an extended period of time. However, when Lowrey arrived, the bear was moving again.
“As long as it’s on the move, that’s positive,” Lowrey said. “The best solution is for it to move on out.”
By 11:30 a.m., the bear had moved to Old Thompson Bridge Road, following two reports of the bear on Mountain View Road around 10:30 a.m.
“Hopefully this thing is moving North like it should and getting out of town,” Lowrey said. “Hopefully it will continue to do that.”
Steve McKibben of Ridgewood Avenue saw the bear around 7 a.m. Friday morning.
“It just ambled around,” McKibben said. “It saw us and seemed very skittish and scared. A small dog could have barked at it and it would have run away.”
Friday afternoon, McKibben found his bird feeder torn apart in a neighbor’s backyard. The sunflower seeds inside were gone. Presumably, the bear got hungry.
“I just hope they trap it and go release it out into the wild and keep it safe,” he said. “I hope people have common sense and just leave it alone.”
Bear sightings began to pour in Thursday afternoon as multiple residents reported spending some time with the visiting wildlife.
Kathryn Almand followed the bear for 30 minutes as it poked around through Green Street Circle.
She was driving, on her way to Helen, when she saw the bear through her car window.
“I said, ‘Wow, look at that funny dog,’” Almand said. “And then I said, ‘Oh my gosh it’s a bear!’ I screamed it. I was flabbergasted.”
She said the bear approached several houses in the residential area, sniffing and searching for food.
Almand called the police, who told her DNR was handling the case and that they advised residents to pull in their bird feeders and make sure trash cans had their lids secured. But Almand had hoped for more direct action.
“I’m really not too crazy about the idea of the DNR just saying leave it alone or it will go away,” she said. “I heard it’s been around for several weeks and it’s apparently not going away.”
Lowrey said this bear has been in the area for three weeks, starting in Forsyth County and making its way into the city.
“It’s definitely getting us and the other folks in the area a little nervous,” said Mark Almand, Kathryn Almand’s husband. Despite his unease, he’s given the bear a playful name — the Almands are calling it Ralphie.
Cindy McEver’s Christopher Drive home also played host to the bear Thursday morning.
“I happened to look out the window and saw something coming up the back driveway,” she said. “Have you ever looked at something and said ‘I didn’t just see that?’”
She tried to call to her son Jonah McEver, 10, but the words wouldn’t come.
“I couldn’t get the word ‘bear’ out,” she said.
They grabbed video cameras and took pictures as they raced through the house looking out the window.
“It was incredible to see wildlife outside of cages, and to see it up close like that,” Cindy McEver said. “You could tell that he was very young because he had a playful move. I thought it was really neat to see that up close.”
Her son agreed.
“It was really neat,” he said. “It was strange to see a bear running around in the Gainesville area because you would not expect to see that in such an area.”