Some Mentone residents report increased bear sightings in recent weeks. With that in mind, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reminds the public to be very careful interacting with these majestic creatures.
“It is very important to know that bears are a natural part of Alabama’s landscape, but there are many things a homeowner can do to avoid conflicts with them,” said Marianne Hudson, an ADCNR conservation education specialist.
“Bears could potentially be seen in any county of the state, but residents are more likely to see them in some areas than others, including Mentone.”
She said humans should:
• Never purposely feed a bear, never approach a bear.
• Make noise to shoo it away if you see it. Do not run. Raise arms above head and make sure the bear has an escape route to leave unhindered.
• Avoid leaving pet food, trash, or stinky cans/smelly grills outdoors.
• Put trash out the morning of pick-up, remove pet food as soon as the pet is done eating and ensure waste cans and grills are clean.
Bears were reportedly once common on Lookout Mountain with settlers having very limited bear interaction from the early 1900s to 1980s. As bears find good habitat and breed, their numbers grow to what the habitat can support. The range of their home territory is typically about 8 miles, but they may travel farther in years when food is harder to find.
Black bears are scavengers looking for an easy meal like human food, pet food and even birdseed. If they are attracted to a yard or garden more than a few times, a homeowner is advised to find out what is attracting them and remove it.
To discourage bears from entering campsites and scenic overlooks, the parks use animal-resistant garbage cans at picnic areas to prevent bears from becoming attracted to people’s food, while also preventing other animals from scattering garbage and becoming a nuisance. The cans save many hours of work that would be needed to clean up after raccoons and opossums.
Black bears are the only bear found east of the Mississippi River, and they are normally not a threat to humans. In fact, they attract large numbers of tourists to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Growing accustomed to both human food and contact increases the likelihood of bear-human interactions that end badly, usually for the bear, as happened in Dec. 2011 when a car struck a bear. Press reports from 2012 recount more sightings, signs and footprints indicating the return of black bears to Little River Canyon National Preserve.
Most incidents involving bears are the direct result of people approaching one for photographs, surprising the bear or attempting to feed it. It’s important to remember they are wild beasts. One can minimize the possibility of a confrontation by never approaching, feeding or following wild animals, especially bears.
Alabama participates in the “bearwise” program offering tips to live comfortably and responsibly with bears at https://bearwise.org/.
Anyone who sees a bear is encouraged to report the sighting at https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear.