Hungry Bear Can Ruin a Camping Trip
Whether it’s a late summer camping trip or a stay at a cozy cabin in the woods, there’s always a possibility for a black bear sighting or encounter in North Georgia. With more than 75 established campgrounds and an estimated 1,200-1,500 black bears in North Georgia alone, campers should always be prepared for the possibility of encountering a bear. The key to preventing them from hanging around campsites and rental cabins is to properly store food and trash.
“Bears have the potential to become a nuisance when people feed them – either intentionally or not. When a bear knows it can get a ‘free meal,’ it’s going to return again and again until eventually it loses its natural fear of humans. This is when the majority of human-bear conflicts occur and the bear becomes labeled a “nuisance,” explains Adam Hammond, Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division biologist.
Homeowners and business owners in known bear areas can be proactive in lessening human-bear conflicts by taking the following important steps to secure their garbage:
· Convert to ‘bear-proof’ garbage containers.
· Put garbage cans at the curb on the day of pick-up rather than the night before. If there is no curbside pick-up in your area, take garbage to the nearest disposal site as soon as possible.
· Store your garbage in the garage or another enclosed area.
· Install electric fences around garbage storage areas.
· Remove food scraps from grills and fire pits daily.
· Rinse food cans and wrappers before disposal. Keep garbage cans clean and deodorize them periodically.
· Concerning dumpsters: Install ‘bear-proof’ dumpsters, attach reinforcing lids or install latch mechanisms.
Garbage is just one of the many non-natural food items that attracts bears. Birdseed and pet food round out the top three most common types of attractants. Homeowners in known bear areas are advised to bring pet food indoors and remove bird feeders during the spring and late summer.
Known bear areas include the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmuglee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeast. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas in search of food, especially in the spring when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears also are known to roam larger areas in an effort to establish their own territory.
“The best and most effective way to resolve human-bear conflicts is to remove whatever is attracting the bear to the area,” says Hammond. “In most cases, that simply means making trash, birdseed, pet food and other non-natural food items inaccessible.”
Though the American black bear (Ursus americanus) is now considered the most common bear in North America and the only bear found in Georgia, at one point the species was nearly eradicated from the state due to poaching and habitat loss. Yet, because of sound wildlife management practices, Georgia’s current black bear population is estimated between 2,300 and 2,500.
For more information regarding black bears, visit www.georgiawildlife.com, contact a WRD Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416. The public also can visit their local library to check out a copy of an informational DVD entitled, “Where Bears Belong: Black Bears in Georgia.”