THE N.C. WILDLIFE
OFFERS THIS ADVICE AS
BLACK BEAR SIGHTINGS
Never feed or approach a bear.
Intentionally feeding bears or allow-ing
them to find anything that smells
or tastes like food teaches them to
approach homes and people to look
for more. Bears will defend them-selves
if a person gets too close, so
don’t risk your safety and theirs.
Secure food, garbage and recy-cling.
Black bears are smart and
have been caught on film opening
car, house and garage doors. Food
and food odors attract bears, so
don’t reward them with easily avail-able
food or garbage. Store bags of
trash inside cans in a garage, shed
or other secure area, or use trash
containers with a secure latching
system or that are bear resistant.
Place trash outside as late as possi-ble
on the morning of trash pick-up,
not the night before.
Remove bird feeders when bears
are active. Birdseed, other grains
and hummingbird feeders have high
calorie content making them very
attractive to bears.
Feed pets indoors when possible. If
you must feed pets outside, feed in
single portions and remove food and
bowls after feeding. Store pet food
where bears can’t see or smell it.
Clean grills after each use and
make sure that all grease, fat and
food particles are removed, includ-ing
drip trays. Store clean grills and
smokers in a secure area, like a
garage or shed.
If you see bears in the area or
evidence of bear activity,
tell your neighbors and
share information about how
to avoid bear conflicts.
If you meet one, experts say back away slowly and sideways which is non-threatening to
bears; make lots of noise and get to a safe distance. Don’t play dead, and never approach,
challenge, or try to feed a bear. A mature bear can run 35 miles per hour uphill and downhill,
climb a tree faster than a bobcat, bite through thick metal, and swat with bone-shattering
force. The good news is bears are usually shy by nature, but don’t depend on that.
In September 2021, while having a picnic lunch at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge
Parkway, a couple was repeatedly attacked by a bear. They retreated to their car and drove to
Mission Hospital where both were treated and released. They were lucky. Patrick Madura
and Brenda Ann Bradley were not so fortunate. Madura was mauled and killed by a black
bear in 2020 and Bradley in 2010 — both in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission programs inform the public about
black bear interaction and help manage levels of human-bear conflict through educational
However, it’s always best to remember that bears are dangerous wild animals, and their
behavior can be unpredictable.
Large numbers of black bear and other wildlife annually draw photographers to eastern
North Carolina. Snow Hill native and professional wildlife photographer Neil Jernigan is
one of those who routinely photographs giant black bears — some within 50 feet! He tells
of one winter day he won’t soon forget: “I was observing a field that was thick with plump,
sprouted, winter wheat adjacent to a wildlife refuge. It was a bitter cold, windy day, and I had
hoped to photograph bears but hadn’t seen any. The field was trampled in several places, so I
knew bears must be using it at some point, so I waited,” said Jernigan.
“Late in the afternoon, finally I photographed a bear coming out of the refuge and feeding
in the wheat. Bears are usually solitary and not sociable, so I was happy to see the one and was
shocked and surprised when over the next hour almost 30 bears streamed out of the refuge
into that one field. Drawn to the abundant wheat, they ate, they rolled, they chased and
played, and they slept — it was quite an evening.”
Bears are beautiful, wild, adaptive, amazing animals. Wildlife refuges and remote areas
with little human footprint will always be the most important habitat for them. They are
extremely adaptable, and peaceful coexistence in the urban interface will continue if wildlife
management is supported in North Carolina.