Black bear reported roaming today near Grovetown, Appling

Columbia County authorities reported a black bear sighting between Grovetown and Appling this morning.

Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said the animal was spotted 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.

The employee pulled her car off to the roadside to watch the bear, which soon crossed the highway in front of her.

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. "Residents should never approach a bear and never, under any circumstances, feed a bear. Even worse, attempting to 'tree' or corner a bear in a certain area often compromises both the safety and welfare of the public and the bear."

Adult males typically force younger males out of

familiar territory. If left alone, these "transient" bears usually make their way back to more traditional bear areas: the north Georgia mountains, the Ocmulgee River drainage system in central Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state.

Mrs. Tucker said anyone seeing 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.

In June 2008 a wandering bear made its way to Augusta, where it was tranquilized by wildlife authorities after it climbed a tree at a children's camp on Mike Padgett Highway. The bear was traced to Florida, where it had been captured and moved to a wilderness region near Tallahassee.

After its capture in Augusta, it was taken to U.S. Forest Service land near Helen, Ga. It later ended up in Alabama, where it was shot and killed by police who said at the time they did not have access to a tranquilizer gun.

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