(WGHP) — If you’re wondering if recent reports of bear sightings in the Piedmont Triad could be signaling new neighbors, you’d be right.

North Carolina’s black bear population is more prevalent in the mountains and coastal plain, but a report from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission confirmed that “the population is expanding into the Piedmont and sightings are increasingly common, usually in May, June and July.”

Back in April, the N.C Wildlife Resources Commission said it was receiving a spike in black bear reports during the spring. The commission says this comes as “no surprise since the state’s bear population has grown over the past 50 years and the residential footprint has grown.”

Specifically, during this time of year, young bears begin looking for a new home after their mothers push them away before she begins breeding again.

“While these young bears, typically males, may appear to be wandering aimlessly around, they are not necessarily lost,” Olfenbuttel said. “Most are simply exploring their new surroundings and will move on, particularly if they are left alone and there is no food around.”

So where are bears showing up in North Carolina?

According to North Carolina Wildlife’s “Black Bear Range Expansion Map,” which was last updated in 2010, bears are known to occupy the state westward from Stokes, Yadkin, Alexander, Catawba, and Cleveland Counties and eastward from Vance, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Harnett, Cumberland and Robeson Counties, leaving a sizeable gap across the Piedmont.

The state’s species profile explains that “in the east, lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins, provide good bear habitat. Recent research has shown bears to be much more adaptable to habitat changes than previously thought and some bears have adapted to living near developed areas.”

The map of bears hunted in the 2021-2022 season reinforces that range and could suggest that bears are appearing in a few more counties previously reported as “unoccupied” on the expansion map.

The top three counties for bear hunting were all coastal. In Hyde County, hunters harvested 298 bears followed by Beaufort County with 230 and Tyrrell with 207.

What may come as more of a surprise when looking at the 2010 map are the kills that took place in counties that were previously listed as “unoccupied,” primarily across counties bordering Virginia. Granville and Person Counties reported nine kills, Caswell reported five and Rockingham reported three. A few other lone counties in central North Carolina reported one kill each: Alamance, Iredell, Lee and Stanly Counties.

In the state’s data covering the prior three years, the highest number of bears harvested in a single year within the past three years was 12 in Granville, nine in Person, 13 in Caswell and 10 in Rockingham. In this iteration of the map, the lone single-kill counties in previously “unoccupied” areas are Anson, Davie, Davidson, Franklin, Gaston, Lee, Wake and Yadkin.

These numbers suggest black bears may have a foothold in Granville, Person, Caswell and Rockingham Counties and may be just starting to move into others.

In June, FOX8 has received multiple reports of bear sightings in the Triad.

Scott Carrithers shared a video of a bear in High Point. He said he shot the video at about 12:30 p.m. between Tucker's Grill on North Main Street and the U.S. 311 bridge over N.C. 66.

April Rich said she and her husband spotted a bear on Stoney Ridge in Wallburg.

  • Stokesdale - 8:57 a.m. June 2 - N.C. 220, across from Yates Construction
  • Kernersville - 9 a.m. June 4 - Oakhurst Street
  • Summerfield - 7:45 p.m. June 5 - N.C. 150 and Interstate 73
  • High Point - 12:32 p.m. June 8 - Between Tuckers Grill on North Main Street and US 311 bridge over NC 66.
  • Wallburg - 12:50 p.m. June 9 - Stoney Ridge near Shady Grove
  • Bear spotted in Summerfield (Courtesy of Hazen Harvell)
  • Bear spotted in Summerfield (Courtesy of Hazen Harvell)
  • Bear spotted in Summerfield (Courtesy of Hazen Harvell)
  • Bear spotted in Summerfield (Courtesy of Hazen Harvell)

Do I need to be worried?

Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, said in an April news release that it's possible to coexist with bears.  

“Most bears that wander into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat, particularly if no food source is around. By following the six BearWise Basics the public can prevent potential conflicts and live responsibly with bears," she said.

The six BearWise Basics are:

  • Never feed or approach a bear. Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people to look for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.
  • Secure food, garbage and recycling. Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food or garbage. Store bags of trash inside cans in a garage, shed or other secure area; or use garbage cans or trash containers with a secure latching system or that are bear resistant. Place trash outside as late as possible on the morning of trash pick-up — not the night before.
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed, other grains and hummingbird feeders have high-calorie content making them very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.
  • Never leave pet food outdoors. Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it.
  • Clean and store grills. Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed, including drip trays. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area, like a garage or shed.
  • Alert neighbors to bear activity. If you see bears in the area or evidence of bear activity, tell your neighbors and share information about how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.

According to North Carolina Biologist Falyn Owens, as young bears break away from their families, they are drawn to food and may seek it out in garbage, bird feeders and pet food dishes. If you see a bear, Owens says you should keep your distance and enjoy the special experience.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office says it is not necessary to notify law enforcement or animal services that a bear or other wildlife has been spotted. They instead recommend simply notifying neighbors through services such as Nextdoor or other neighborhood groups.

If you would like to share a photo or a video that you took of a bear in the Piedmont Triad, you can send it to news@wghp.com. Please include the time and location of the sighting and confirm that you took the photo or video. Be sure to keep your distance, and keep in mind that bears are unpredictable and should not be interfered with.