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Black bear spotted in Bulloch

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Black bear spotted in Bulloch

A young male black bear tales a swim in a ditch last summer while Bulloch County Humane Enforecment officers and Georgia Departmentof Natural Resource rangers prepare to catch the injured animal, which was struck by a vehicle at night. Thursday, several citizens sighted a black bear on U.S. 80 West near Cecil Cassedy Road.

    Almost a year since a driver struck a black bear on Langston Chapel Road, citizens sighted another black bear — this time, trying to cross a busy highway on the west side of town.
    Bulloch Humane Enforcement Officer Joey Sanders said he got a call around 8 a.m. Thursday from the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department, who said someone  reported seeing a black bear on U.S. 80 West on a curve between Rolling Woods subdivision and Friendship Church Road.
    Several citizens reported seeing the bear, and when humane enforcement officers and others investigated, they found the big bruin's massive paw prints, along with broken limbs where the animal passed through woods, he said.
    "It was a pretty big black bear," he said. "A lady who lives (near the place where the bear was seen) said she thought she saw the bear a few days ago."
    However, by the time Sanders and his crew arrived, the bear was out of sight, likely seeking security of the woods since his appearance attracted so much attention.
    The bear might not be a lone wolf.
    "There could be more around here," Sanders said, adding that the young male bear struck by a car last year was the first bear sighting he has ever heard of in Bulloch County.
    Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. William Vickers has worked with DNR for several years, and last year's sighting in Bulloch was his first as well, he said.
    "They were probably just traveling through," he said, adding that July is bear breeding season, and older male bears will run the younger ones off when they reach a certain age.
    The exiled male bears will travel until they find another bear community, he said.
    Black bears are native to Georgia, although the largest populations are in north or extreme south Georgia.
    According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Web site, the black bear population in the state is about 2,200.
    The Web site reports that black bears are usually found "in three distinct regions in Georgia, although they will range over larger areas in search of food. They can be found in the North Georgia mountains, along the Ocmulgee River drainage system in the central part of the state and in the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeast. Young male bears often will roam large areas until they are able to establish their own territory."
    Some people have reported seeing what they call "hog bears" or "honey bears" in the area, but Vickers said there is only one species of bear in the state, although they come in various sizes according to age and sex and can vary from jet black to a cinnamon color.
    Sanders and Vickers each advise citizens if they see a bear, leave it alone.
    There is no bear season in Bulloch County, and since bears are protected, it is illegal to shoot them, Vickers said.
    Sanders said anyone seeing a bear should call the Bulloch Humane Enforcement emergency line at (912) 489-6911.
    "They need to report it so we'll know it's in the area," he said.
    If a bear is located in a heavily populated area such as a subdivision or inside city limits, it will be relocated, but if it is out in the rural areas, it will be left alone unless causing problems, he said.
    The bear struck by a car last year was on its way to being relocated when it died of injuries sustained in the collision with the vehicle.
    Vickers said it could be possible that bears' territories are expanding from traditional areas, thus pushing some adventurous bears into our area.
    Bears in the area should not pose a problem, but if they do, just call authorities. And if citizens wish to discourage bears, limiting food sources would help, he said
    "The one great motivator is something to eat," he said. "They go where there is food and habitat."
    Bears eat "berries, fruits, acorns, grasses and animal matter, including insects or mammals — even deer," according to the Web site.
    The odors of cooking and garbage can attract bears, as well as access to pet food, birdseed, suet, compost piles, gardens, beehives and cornfields.
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