The black bear population is growing in North Carolina. (Source: WECT)
HAMPSTEAD, NC (WECT) -
There are people who believe the only bears that you will see in eastern North Carolina are those found in zoos. But in the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of these animals, and many of them call southeastern North Carolina home.
Black bears have made a comeback in North Carolina. In 1980, it was estimated that the black bear population in the state had decreased to less than 2,000. Now that figure is thought to be in excess of 10,000.
While there are many that are found in the mountains, the biggest gain in the number of black bears have been right here, in eastern North Carolina.
Officer Clayton Ludwick of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says we all need to be aware that there are many black bears right here in the southeastern part of the state.
"Yea, it is a beautiful time to camp and you have to be aware of your surroundings, you are in nature's habitat," said Officer Clayton Ludwick of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "So you have to make sure you put your food up, the bears and the other animals are all attracted to that human odor, so beware that you put your food away and keep it in a place where animals don't smell it and are not attracted to those smells and that way you can avoid your unnatural contact with the bears.
Black bears, by nature, at not aggressive animals. They are usually very shy and avoid humans in most cases.
When there is a report of a bear being spotted in an urban area, it is usually a young male who has spent the first year and a half with the adult female bear, then is pushed out on its own.
"They can range from about 100 to about 150 pounds," said Ludwick.
Campers are some of the people who are most likely to encounter a bear sighting.
Ludwick says the best thing you can do, if you come face to face with a bear, is just leave it alone.
"The black bears are generally more scared of you than you are of them, so back up and get to a safe place, whether it is a secure area in your car, don't approach the bear, don't try to scare it off, or hit it with a stick, the best thing you can do is just back up and get to a secure place and if you want to, just watch the bear from a safe distance," said Ludwick.
The bear hunting season in eastern North Carolina runs from November tenth until January first. However, the Wildlife Commission has some new rules for bearing hunting, so make sure you check with them before heading out on a bear hunt.