As reports of bear sightings in and around Hall County increase, officials are asking residents to stay smart in the face of wildlife.
Scott Frazier, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said reports have come in from three main areas — near Shady Grove Drive in Forsyth County, around Browns Bridge Road on the Hall County-Forsyth County line and around the Chattahoochee Country Club in Hall County.
Frazier said the bears in Forsyth County are small, weighing between 80 and 90 pounds, and the bear near the Chattahoochee Country Club is an adult female with a cub.
The Browns Bridge and Chattahoochee bears were just reported as sightings, but Frazier said bears near Shady Grove Drive could have been tied to some property damage in residential areas.
“That’s things like turning over trash cans, bending down bird feeders and chewing them up, that sort of thing,” Frazier said.
In a period of two weeks, the DNR has received about 10 calls regarding bears near Shady Grove, and there have been four sightings of the Browns Bridge bear.
The newest bear on the scene is the Chattahoochee Country Club female. Frazier said the first reports of that bear came in Tuesday.
When bears are reported as sightings, the DNR does not pursue trapping. However, if an animal is causing damage, the department will take action.
“Bears that cause property damage, we will pursue,” Frazier said. “In fact we have, two weeks ago, set a trap in an attempt to catch the bear on Shady Grove Road.”
He said the trap was there for nine days, but the department was unsuccessful.
A bear was also involved in an accident in Lumpkin County. Frazier said a vehicle hit a bear and a person was ejected from the car. Sightings have also been recently reported in Barrow County.
The American black bears found in Georgia can grow to weigh about 600 pounds, and Frazier said bear sightings usually peak in the summer months.
Bears will usually not attack unless they are provoked, Frazier said.
“I can think of no case in the state of Georgia where someone was attacked without a mitigating circumstance, so to speak,” Frazier said. “We are aware of cases where people have been scratched or bitten on the hand, and the person was trying to touch the bear, willfully touch it, or offer it food from their hand.”
He said the best policy when seeing a bear would be to stay away and contact the DNR. He said if you happen to stumble upon a bear and are relatively close to it, you should maintain eye contact facing the bear and back away slowly.
When residents find out about bears in or around their neighborhoods, Frazier said they should remove anything edible from their property and store it indoors so the bear does not come to think of the area as a source of food.
“As long as they get food, they’ll keep returning,” Frazier said. “We have bears known to return for months as long as there’s food available.”