Bear roams Columbia County neighborhoods

A wandering bear spotted in Columbia County this morning has continued to move through several subdivisions today, according to Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker.


Most recently, the bear – estimated from residents’ photos to be a 2-year-old male weighing about 150 pounds – was seen along Foxfire Place in West Lake, she said. Others spotted the bear near the entrance to Barrington and at Stevens Pointe.

Shortly before noon, the bear traveled along Watervale Road, where it tried to enter a garage and then ran behind a residence.

“This bear sounds scared and is trying to find his way – most likely towards Gainesville or Macon. That’s where our two closest bear populations are.”

The bear was first seen around 7 a.m. in The Locks subdivision off Evans to Locks Road near the Savannah River. Although some reports have identified the bear as a small cub, other callers describe a very large animal.

It is unlikely, however, that there are two bears traveling together, according to experts.

“Most likely, we are dealing with a solitary young male that, at some point, got kicked out of its home range and he is wandering around the state looking to find his own home range,” said Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist I.B. Parnell of the division’s Thomson field office.

Black bears routinely wander throughout the state during late spring and early summer, so it is not unusual to spot one outside their normal habitat range.

“We usually have several in this area every year, and right about this time of year,” Mr. Parnell said. “But we have never recorded a female with cubs in this area. All the ones we’ve seen are the typical young males, usually in the 150-pound category.”

Black bears live in the extreme northern and southern portions of Georgia, where females typically give birth to one or two – and occasionally three – cubs in January or February. The young are usually weaned in August but will stay with the mother for at least a year.

Wildlife authorities were not involved in searching for the bear, in hopes that – if left alone – it will continue on its way without requiring intervention.

“Trailing a bear by car or on foot is just not a good idea,” he said. “At this point we’re trying to keep everyone out of the way, and another truck from our agency would just complicate the situation.”

Anyone who sees the bear should stay away from it, Mrs. Tucker said.

“This bear is not looking to hurt anyone. He’s made some sort of a loop looking for a new territory where other bears are close-by. It won’t find that here – and if we get out of the way – he will find his way where he needs to be. DNR strongly advises just leaving it alone at this point. “

Today’s sighting is the third time this month that a bear has been seen in the area.

On June 4, a Columbia County employee on her way to work saw a bear in a field as she drove down Baker Place Road from Wrightsboro Road. She stopped her car and watched as the bear crossed the road in front of her car, moving toward Grovetown. There were no subsequent reported sightings.

Three days earlier, residents in Savannah Lakes Village along Thurmond Lake in McCormick County, S.C., reported a bear traveling through their neighborhoods.


DNR provided these tips for handling bears in residential areas:

1. Never pursue or chase on foot or in vehicles in an attempt to chase it from the area

2. Give plenty of space and an avenue of retreat

3. Homeowners should remove dogs from the area (keep penned up) so the bear doesn’t run up a tree

4. Remove all dog and cat food from outside on porches or yards

5. Put trash out on the day of pick-up by garbage company



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