Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#NewsBham: Young Black Bear Makes Appearance in Alexandria, Alabama

Residents of Alexandria, Ala., a small community just north of Anniston in Calhoun County, were treated to an uncommon, but more frequent sight in Alabama when a black bear weighing approximately 100 pounds was spotted near Alexandria High School Saturday, May 30.

Officials from the Weaver Police Department, Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) responded to calls concerning several sightings of the young bear near the high school and community baseball fields near Pattiway Drive. The bear took refuge in a hedgerow near the baseball fields for several hours before escaping into a nearby forested area, but not before attracting the attention of several individuals at the baseball fields. Numerous households in the area were subsequently notified about the bear sighting.

Steve Bryant, WFF District 2 Supervising Wildlife Biologist, assisted with the response efforts in Alexandria. Bryant said the excitement caused by the bear sighting is understandable even during summer when the chance of seeing a young black bear can increase. “This particular bear was behaving as a normal black bear should, exhibiting a natural fear of humans and was a minimal threat to the public,” Bryant said. “It had not caused any property damage, expressed any aggressive behavior and was not acclimated to human activities. In cases such as this, the best option is to allow the bear to return to the area in which it left on its own accord. While tranquilizing equipment was on site, its use is typically the last option due to the associated risks to the bear.”


“During spring and summer, black bear movements increase as adult males expand their home ranges dramatically in search of receptive females and sub-adult males scour new grounds to establish a home range,” he said. “Late spring and early summer are typically the time in which young sub-adult males are expelled from their mother’s territory and often wander miles prior to establishing a territory. While black bear mothers may allow a sub-adult female to become established within her home range, she won’t tolerate any of her male offspring doing the same. This results in the numerous spring and summer sightings of black bears that WFF staff collect and analyze on an annual basis.”


While Alabama has had a resident black bear population for many years in southwest Alabama, during the last decade, an expanding population has been established in northeast Alabama. The bears have gradually migrated from northwest Georgia following the preferred habitats of the Appalachian foothills as they extend into our state. While this sighting was uncommon for Alexandria, several have been documented not too far away and will most likely be more common in years to come.

Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. To avoid accidentally attracting a bear to your home, feed pets just enough food that they can consume in one meal. Secure uneaten pet food, trash bins, bird and other wildlife feeders, as they are easy pickings for hungry young bears.
What should you do if you are lucky enough to encounter/observe a black bear? WFF offers these suggestions:
  • Do not be frightened.
  • Do not approach the animal.
  • Do not run from the bear; back away slowly.
  • Stand tall and upright and make loud noises.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the bear.
  • Make sure the bear has an unobstructed direction to escape.
  • Never purposely feed a bear.
While bears are classified as a game animal, there is no open hunting season for black bears in Alabama. The public is encouraged to report black bear sightings to WFF district wildlife offices, online at https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear, or by email to Thomas Harms at Thomas.Harms@dcnr.alabama.gov.