Courtesy DNR

It is that time of year when black bears are on the prowl, foraging for food and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials are reminding people to learn how to be “Bear Wise.”

It’s not unusual to see bears this time of year in our area and the Bear Wise program teaches people what to do to keep bears from being a nuisance and what to do when and if you see a bear.

Some common-sense safety tips for you and bears include:

FIRST, SECURE FOOD, GARBAGE AND RECYCLING:   One of the first things every property owner should do is to stash your trash – which reduces the chance of a human-bear encounter before they start or escalate.

“Bears are hungry and ready to find food upon leaving their dens after a wintertime hibernation period. This search for food can sometimes put them a little too close to people,” says Adam Hammond, state bear biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division. “We can help keep bears from getting too close to our homes and our businesses when we become ‘BearWise’ and learn to live responsibly with bears.”

Experts say a bear that repeatedly finds food from garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food bowls is unlikely to leave and will become bolder in its search for easy food.

That can lead to property damage to homes, garages, vehicles, and more. Once bears have learned bad habits and have come to rely on people for a “free meal,” they rarely change those behaviors, and this type of behavior progressively gets worse with time and experience.

SECOND, NEVER FEED OR APPROACH BEARS: Feeding bears (intentionally or unintentionally) trains them to approach homes and people for more food. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!

Additionally, if you see a mama bear with cubs it might be tempting to get near them but mama bear is very protective and could attack or charge at you if she thinks you’re getting too close.

THIRD, CLEAN AND STORE GRILLS: After you use an outdoor grill, clean it thoroughly and make sure that all grease and fat is removed. Store cleaned grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.

FINALLY, LET NEIGHBORS KNOW: Share news with your friends and neighbors about recent bear activity and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; are you willing to adapt to living near bears?

If you really care about bears, please make the extra effort to ensure that your home and yard are “unattractive” to bears – to protect yourself, your family and pets, and bears.

The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, the only bear found in the state and a conservation success story.

Black bears may legally be hunted in certain parts of Georgia during the fall (

However, the taking of bears during any other time of the year, or the taking of bears illegally during the hunting season, is poaching.