Bear is spotted

A black bear sighted between Grovetown and Appling on Thursday morning remained on the loose Thursday night.

Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said the animal was seen by a county employee on her way to work.

"As she drove down Baker Place Road from Wrightsboro Road she spotted a black bear in a big field in the area just before I-20 crosses Baker Place Road," Mrs. Tucker said.

Mrs. Tucker noted that a bear was seen Monday near Savannah Lakes Village on the McCormick County, S.C., side of Thurmond Lake.

"We are unsure if this is the same bear that was spotted a few days ago at Savannah Lakes, but we do know that bears can travel great distances fairly quickly," she said.

Though bears typically remain in the northern and coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina, young males often wander during the spring and early summer in search of new areas in which to live and seek mates.

Such jaunts often lead them into very populated -- even urban -- areas, said Adam Hammond, a wildlife biologist with Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division.

"If a black bear is sighted passing through an area, the best thing to do is to leave it alone," he said.

Mrs. Tucker said anyone who sees the bear should immediately notify the Department of Natural Resources' Thomson office at (706) 667-4672; or dial the county's 311 help line and a county official will notify DNR.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com

BEARS ON THE MOVE

Black bears are multiplying and on the move across North America, snooping around cities where they've been a rarity, becoming roadkill and leading states to start or expand hunting seasons.

Bear numbers across the Northeast are at or near record levels, said John McDonald Jr., a wildlife research specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Massachusetts.

The bear population in the United States rose from about 156,000 in 1989 to about 227,000 in 2001, according to a report published by Mr. McDonald in 2007.

"Bears are more abundant now than they have been in hundreds of years," said Mr. McDonald, who completed doctoral research on bears. "They're filling in states like Ohio and Kentucky that historically didn't have bears for hundreds of years."