WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Experts say that the black bear population is growing in our state and that means more of them could be making their way to the highly populated Piedmont counties.
Last weekend, a black bear was killed along Business 40 in Winston-Salem.
“It was about 125-130 pound black bear, which is pretty typical for a yearling male,” said James Tomberlin, wildlife biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission.
Tomberlin says around this time of year, the mother bears are starting to kick out their yearlings in preparation for the summer’s breeding season.
“There’s two kind of populations of bears in North Carolina; the mountain population and the coastal population,” Tomberlin said.
A few years ago, there were about 17,000 bears in our state. Tomberlin says that number is growing, but there hasn’t been a recent population estimate.
“The number isn’t as important as the trend, and the trend’s going up,” Tomberlin said.
The trend, Tomberlin said, is that these yearling bears are starting to make their way to the Piedmont.
“As the population grows it’s expanding, and that’s why we’re seeing more bear movements into the Piedmont counties,” Tomberlin said. “It’s probably going to become more usual. People need to be aware that it can happen.”
Experts say that the black bears are not normally aggressive.
“They’re just looking for a meal and a place to set up home in,” Tomberlin said. “If you do have a bear encounter, just enjoy it. It’s really a wildlife success story and a conservation success story.”
However, if they are cornered – or if people feed them – they could pose a threat.
“It certainly presents the opportunity for issues, conflicts, vehicle collisions,” Tomberlin said.
Experts say that a bear hunting season was introduced to the Piedmont last year, in an attempt to control the population. The seasons vary based on the county, so for a breakdown of the bear season where you live, click here.