Black bear spotted near West Forsyth High School
DNR: A warm December means bears are active

Over the weekend, a black bear was spotted in Wolverine country. 

On Sunday evening, Mary Taylor Smith and husband, Kevin, were driving along Kelly Mill Road near West Forsyth High School when they spotted a young black bear running across the road.

“I started seeing it come out of the yard [of a nearby] house and thought it was a dog at first,” Smith said. “I was like, ‘that’s shaped a little different than a dog,’ and my husband goes, ‘that’s a bear!’”

After crossing the street, the bear crossed to the Telfair subdivision — across from the school and where the couple lives — before going back across the road again. Smith said her husband attempted to take a picture of the bear before it ran into nearby woods.

“It’s not deep woods,” she said. “It’s very shallow because the school’s right there. You can see the school behind the area where it went.”

Smith said they had seen coyotes and even a cow in the neighborhood but never a bear and were happy it was a smaller one.

“It was a cub,” Smith said. “It was about the size of a large cub. It kind of makes you wonder if it got lost from its family or if its family is nearby.”

Bear sightings are somewhat common in Forsyth County. The Forsyth County News reported on two bear sightings along Lake Lanier in February and April, respectively.


“It was about the size of a large cub. It kind of makes you wonder if it got lost from its family or if its family is nearby.”
Mary Taylor Smith

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website, garbage, animal food, composts, gardens and cornfields often attract hungry bears hoping to get an easy meal and “a bear typically will remain in an area where food can be found until that food supply is gone or until other measures are taken.”

Once action is taken, bears can linger a few days before realizing there is no more food.

More than 5,000 black bears live in Georgia, and there are no recorded black bear attacks or fatalities in the state.

Young male bears tend to wander to establish their own territory and to reduce inbreeding. 

The north Georgia Mountains is one of the most popular places for bears in the state, along with the Ocmulgee River drainage system and the Okefenokee Swamp.

The department does not typically relocate bears and instead works to evaluate and remove whatever attracted the bear. Bears are most commonly attracted by food sources and will move on when those are no longer present.

Kevin Lowrey with Georgia DNR said bears aren’t as common in colder weather but come out once temperatures top about 50 degrees. A warm December means bears are still active.

“Typically, this time of year, we would have a lot colder weather and we wouldn’t see as many bears,” Lowrey said. “They don’t really go through a full hibernation in this part of the south but there’s kind of a slow period where they slow their metabolism down, their activity down and they’ll go and seek shelter for a few weeks.”

Lowrey said trash, grease from grills and birdfeeders are reasons bears will show up.

“Everybody likes to see the birds in their backyard, but they don’t like to see the bears, but the unfortunate thing is when you put food out for one, you’re attracting the other,” he said.

He recommended taking down feeders for a few days to let bears move on.

“If we don’t give them a reason to be in our yard, they don’t just come hang out with us because they like us; they’re there for a reason,” Lowrey said. “If you can identify that problem and remove it ... that’s the best situation for the bear.”