The Department of Natural Resources and Columbia County sheriff’s deputies were called to a home on Stardust Drive around 10 p.m. Sunday after the bear was spotted in the sunroom of a residence.
“We take it very seriously when bears enter any dwelling,” said Lee Taylor, game management regional supervisor at DNR.
Taylor said it appears the bear slipped in through a sliding glass door that had been left open in search of food but then left causing no damage to the home.
The bear has been spotted in several other locations in Richmond and Columbia counties, including being caught on camera at a car dealership on Washington Road near Warren Road.
Eloisae Patterson said she and her two sons were on their way home from Wild Wings on Washington Road about 11:20 p.m. when she got a glimpse of what she thought was a dog meandering in the parking lot of Warren Baptist Church.
But it was too big to be a dog.
“I called 911 and said that there was a bear in the church’s parking lot,” she said. “I don’t think the woman believed me at first.”
Patterson’s sons, Drue, 8, and Ian, 5, wanted to get a closer look at the woodland creature, so Patterson pulled over to watch the bear wander from the church parking lot over to a car dealership next door.
She said the bear stood about half as tall as a car while on all fours, but seemed more worried than anything.
“It was kind of scared and drooling a little bit,” she said. “It was like it didn’t know where it was.”
The bear was last seen running down Lutheran Drive, she said.
Taylor said so far the bear does not appear to be a threat to public safety and has not displayed any nuisance behavior. The male bear has been classified as a “transient, wandering bear” that was most likely separated from other bears and will not be staying around for long. In all sightings, the bear has appeared timid and scared of humans. At this point, there are no plans to try and trap the bear.
“We try to let it find it’s own way,” Taylor said.
If the bear “gets into a situation it can’t get out of,” like getting cornered or trapped in a tree, DNR will return to trap the bear, Taylor said.
July is breeding season for bears so it isn’t uncommon to see them wandering in search for food, but DNR advises not to make the hunt easy.
“People see a bear and want to feed it like it’s Yogi,” Taylor said, “but that’s the worst thing you can do.”
Residents are advised to move all trash and pick up pet food bowls at night and not refill bird feeders in areas where the bear has been spotted.
Staff Writer Travis Highfield contributed to this report.