Bear sighting too close for comfort in one Gwinnett neighborhood

Families are worried it could hurt their kids, but they're getting some push back from the DNR.

SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- A Gwinnett County resident is on high alert after spotting a bear that she said is getting too close for comfort to her and her neighbor's homes.

According to Sally Althoff, a bear has been walking up and down her steps in her year, eating the food she usually leaves out in the back for the deer. Althoff's neighbor's camera caught the bear on its latest visit around 5:30 on July 31.

"It's frightening because he's so big! I'm afraid to take my dog out. I have to check everything, to check the mail. And there's children," Althoff said.

The resident of the Emerald Lake subdivision said she's called 911, mostly out of concern for the bear because she says people have been showing up to her street to see it and take pictures.

"People think it's a cute bear," Althoff said. "People aren't being logical about this. It's a wild anima! It's not in a zoo, it's not in a cage, it's not in a fence."

According to the DNR, most bears seen outside of traditional bear ranges are young males, usually on their own.

Relocation could lead to stress, bears getting killed trying to cross roadways or even getting injured or killed by other bears defending their territory.

"Adult bears will defend their territory and some of the younger males will get pushed out. They follow creeks and drains and find their way to suburbs," DNR Game Management Regional Supervisor Lee Taylor said.

Taylor said he believes there are about four roaming bears that have been spotted and each bear can cover 10 to 60 square miles a day.

"That’s a lot," he said. "It wouldn’t be uncommon to have that bear sighted in the morning and then sighted 10 miles away in the afternoon."

Spokesperson Melissa Cummings with DNR said one way to ensure a bear continues to move away from a home or neighborhood is to remove whatever is attracting the bear to an area, like pet food, bird feeders, garbage, fruit trees and gardens.

Which is what the Sugar Hill residents did. Removing all feeders and securing their trash bins. 

Cummings said is best if bears spotted in urban or suburban areas are left alone and allowed to leave on their own.  They should never be treed, cornered or otherwise prohibited from leaving on their own. She said if a bear becomes accustomed to humans and does not behave normally, is injured, or the safety of the bear or people becomes an issue, then capturing the bear becomes an option.

However, in most cases, Cummings said if left alone and not provided access to food, these juvenile bears will eventually make their way back to traditional bear range.

DNR said it has distributed door hangers on door knobs in neighborhoods where bear sightings have occurred that have educational information. 

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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