We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s official: black bear sightings are becoming more common throughout Alabama.
From 2014 to 2015, the number of black bear sightings reported by Alabama residents doubled. In 2016, they shot up by 50%. Around 150 sightings were reported last year, and that doesn’t include bears who escaped detection or in cases when people decided not to call it in.
Wildlife biologist Thomas Harms stated, “In Mobile and Washington County, in some of this delta area, and even some and in northeast Alabama, people are seeing bears enough to where they don’t report them anymore because it’s so common.”
There are no bear attacks on record in the state; the majority of these reports express annoyance, rather than fear.
“Most of the calls we get are nuisance calls,” said Harms. “It’s a bear that they’ve seen and they don’t like it there, or it’s getting into their deer feeder, or something like that but it’s not actually causing any real problems once you figure out what’s going on.”
He estimates that around 90% of such calls pertain to bears finding food in deer feeders, bird feeders, pet dishes, or trash cans. Experts suggest that you remove or secure sources of food that are normally kept outside. These food sources lure bears out of their natural habitat and can cause them to associate humans with yummy treats.
When bears do associate people with food, major problems can occur. If they lose their fear of humans or feel threatened by a human presence around their food source, they could attack.
Most of the time, though, black bears will run away. If you spot a black bear, you should not approach it nor run away. Stand tall and make loud noises, but do not make eye contact. Back away slowly and make sure the animal has a clear path for escape.
Other wild creatures can cause problems for Alabama residents, too. While state law allows a homeowner to remove a single, damage-causing squirrel, rabbit, opossum, raccoon, or skunk without a permit, any additional critter removal will require proper licensing. But since these animals are unpredictable — skunks can shoot their foul stench up to 10 feet from their anal glands — it’s often better to call in a professional.
Alabama residents who are concerned about wildlife activity in or around their home can call their local Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources office for recommendations. They do not usually send officers out to handle nuisance calls, but if you’re afraid for your own safety or are looking for solutions, they’re your best bet.
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