Bear sightings possible this time of year

Watkinsville residents have reported seeing a bear wandering through the city, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, a fairly common occurrence in Georgia this time of year.

There are an estimated 4,000 bears living in North Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. But, there are steps residents can take to mitigate the chances of a bear sighting.

For starters, officials say store garbage in the garage if necessary and keep grills and bird feeders in areas bears can’t access, and certainly don’t consider feeding a bear, as it is illegal – if for no other reason.

“Bears can become habituated to people when they are fed – whether intentional or not,” Adam Hammond, wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division, said in a news release. “When a bear knows it can get a ‘free meal,’ it will 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 is labeled a nuisance,” Hammond said.

In Georgia, black bears are typically found in two areas outside of North Georgia – in the Okefenokee Swamp and Central Georgia’s Ocmulgee River drainage system, according to the DNR.

Young male bears typically explore areas outside their regular domain in the spring, making sightings throughout Metro Atlanta possible, according to the DNR. But, if left alone, the bears typically return to their home turf.

In Watkinsville, city officials told the Athens Banner-Herald they suspect the bear is looking for a place to establish his own domain.

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