*** UPDATE (WEST FORSYTH) – A bear was spotted on Thursday afternoon in the Telfair subdivision on Kelly Mill Road east of Bethelview Road, which is close to Post Road.
FORSYTH COUNTY — In the wake of recent black bear sightings across the Forsyth County area, state and local authorities are reminding residents to stay calm and use caution.
Chuck Waters, game management region supervisor with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said the best option is to give bears their space.
“That’s an annual thing and usually if left alone and not provided food, they usually move on,” he said. “They don’t want to hang around at someone’s house. The vast majority of problems people have with bears are food related.”
According to Waters, the wandering bears often are young males trying to find their own territory, which reduces in-breeding.
“When they emerge from the den as yearlings, the young males get kicked out of the house,” he said. “It’s always kind of analogous to teenage boys. They’re the ones that always roam around and go places they probably shouldn’t and don’t always make good.
“They’re looking for a place to call home where they don’t get beat up by other bears, and so they tend to follow wooded areas, river corridors, things like that.”
And food is a big motivation.
“This time of year, before the berries get ripe and … there’s not a whole lot out in the woods,” Waters said. “A nice dish of protein sitting on the porch in the form of cat food or dog food is a pretty easy choice to make.”
According to Waters, those neighborhoods that have reported bear sightings should take some precautions.
“It’s a good idea if you see a bear — or if somebody tells you that they’ve seen one in your neighborhood or in the general area — to bring garbage cans in instead of leave them outside,” he said. “If you feed your animals outside, bring the dishes in at night.”
Since black bears are not generally aggressive, the department rarely traps or tranquilizes them.
“Our first approach is to let them go off on their own, even down in more metropolitan areas than Forsyth County,” he said.
Robin Regan, a spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies occasionally field reports of bear sightings, but that animal control typically intervenes only when human life is at risk.
“The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control enforces county ordinances and state laws that pertain to domestic animals,” he said. “Any wildlife issues that do come up we defer to the Department of Natural Resources.”
Overall, Waters said the best thing to do if you see a bear is to enjoy the experience.
“Leave them alone, make sure they have nothing to eat and count yourself lucky you got to see a bear and they’ll move on,” he said.