Don't feed the bears

·2 min read

May 26—Bears are going to act like bears.

That might mean digging through one's trash can, knocking down a bird feeder or eating a pet's leftover food on the back porch. Thankfully, all these situations are minor, and almost all could be avoided by being BearWise, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division.

Usually, bears are just passing through one's yard or neighborhood. But a bear that repeatedly finds food from garbage cans, bird feeders and pet food bowls is unlikely to leave and become bolder in its search for easy food. This can lead to property damage to homes, garages and vehicles. Once bears have learned bad habits and have come to rely on people for a "free meal," they rarely change those behaviors — more often, it gets worse with time and experience. If residents care about bears, please make the extra effort to ensure that one's home and yard are "unattractive" to them.

BearWise is an education program developed by state bear biologists, anchored by the website www.bearwise.org, that offers people specific, detailed and high-quality information to help people live responsibly with bears and keep bears wild.

The black bear is a symbol of Georgia's natural diversity as it is the only bear found in the state and is a conservation success story. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia in the 1930s due to unregulated hunting, illegal harvest — including the killing of bears as "vermin" and large-scale habitat loss. Wildlife management practices have restored Georgia's black bears to a thriving population estimated at 4,100 bears statewide.

Black bears may legally be taken during the hunting season, which occurs each fall in Georgia. For more information, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/hunter-resources. However, taking bears any other time of the year is poaching. Prevent poaching by reporting any illegal activity by email, phone or in person. For more information about reporting poaching, visit https://gadnrle.org/ranger-hotline.

For more information on living responsibly with bears, visit www.bearwise.org.