JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Several Johns Creek residents have reported seeing a black bear in their subdivisions this fall.
The Johns Creek Police Department initially warned about bear sightings on their Facebook page in early August. Commenters on the post reported seeing a bear on Morton Road near State Bridge Road, and in the Bridgemor Heights and Aviary subdivisions.
The department posted again on Oct. 18, with a photo of a bear spotted near Alvin Road and Haynes Bridge Road. Ring security footage captured a bear wandering front yards in the Glenhurst Subdivision the night of Oct. 23 and Findley Oaks on Oct. 24.
Wild black bears are normally shy of humans and will stay away from residential areas. However, they are attracted to food and food odors.
The website BearWise.org, recommended by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), offers safety tips for dealing with bears in a variety of circumstances.
Homeowners can “bear-proof” their home by making sure garbage and recycling are secured so they are inaccessible to bears, cleaning and storing grills, not leaving pet food outside and removing bird feeders. BearWise recommends bird baths, nest boxes and native plants as alternatives for supporting birds without attracting bears.
According to the DNR, removing attractants is key to resolving conflicts in between people and bears. Though it may take several days for a bear to learn that it will no longer find a free meal, usually bears will move on when a food source is gone.
The DNR does not recommend relocating bears, because other bears may continue to cause problems if attractants are not removed and relocated bears often try to find their way back home, making them more likely to be hit by cars or die from other causes.
The DNR only recommends moving a bear as a last resort and only if a bear persists in being a nuisance after the removal of all attractants, or when major property damage has occurred or is considered likely. Bears exhibiting behaviors that threaten public safety are euthanized.
Public Information Officer Lt. Todd Hood said the Johns Creek Police Department is following the DNR’s guidelines and using them as a resource to make determinations about the risk posed by bears.
“If at any time the bear becomes immediately dangerous to the public then of course we would take immediate action in order to keep the community safe,” Hood said. “We ask that the public adhere to the suggestions of Georgia DNR.”
If you see a bear, usually the best thing to do is slowly and quietly move away. Never approach or feed a bear. Do not run away and do not corner the bear, BearWise recommends.
If you see the bear in your backyard, you can try to scare the bear away from a safe distance by shouting or banging pots. When the bear leaves, remove potential attractants and ask your neighbors to do the same. Check your yard for bears before letting out your pets.
When black bears feel nervous, they may clack their teeth together, moan, huff, stomp the ground or stand up to get a better look at whatever is bothering them. These are all ways the bear shows it is uncomfortable and wants space, not indications that an attack is about to happen.
In the unlikely event a black bear approaches aggressively, stand your ground, try to appear large by holding up your arms and jacket, or standing on a rock or stump. Back away only when the bear stops its approach.
According to the DNR, there are no recorded bear attacks on humans in Georgia. Still if a bear attacks, it is appropriate to fight back. Do not play dead. An effective defensive tool is bear spray, which is similar to pepper spray, but with a slightly higher concentration of capsaicin and further range.
In a study of bear spray incidents in Alaska, bear spray was effective at deterring the bear more than 90 percent of the time, and in 72 incidents involving 175 people, only three were harmed, and none seriously injured. Bear spray can be purchased at most outdoor and sporting goods stores.
Prior to the 1800s, black bears were common throughout Georgia. Habitat loss and unrestricted hunting caused a serious population decline. Thanks to wildlife management practices, bears have recovered to their present population of about 5,100 statewide, according to the DNR.
Black bears are the only bear that lives in the South, and here their coats are usually black with a brown snout. However, in other areas they can be red, brown or blonde.
These bears do not have the best eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell. They are good tree climbers, can swim and can run as fast as 30 mph.
It won’t be long until black bears go into hibernation for the winter, but until they do, their search for food will consume most of the day. During spring and summer, bears eat around 5,000 calories a day, but in the fall, they can to eat up to 20,000 calories every day to prepare for hibernation.