Alabama Black Bears
If you watch the news, read the paper or view social media, you’re bound to see reports of someone seeing a black bear in Alabama. These sightings are often followed by a flurry of interest and attention from communities and media outlets who are eager for information about this species, which is typically viewed as either charismatic or bothersome by its following. An increase in sightings can be attributed to the easy exchange of information online and due to the gradually growing number of bears in Alabama. With less than an estimated 500 statewide, there is no open season for the hunting of black bears. It is important for every resident to understand that black bears can potentially be seen in any area of the state, what to do if they see one, and how to avoid conflicts with them.
Established breeding populations of our black bears are concentrated in Northeast Alabama and the within the Mobile River basin. Although these regions are where most of Alabama’s bears are born, individuals travel widely and can be seen in any county. Alabama bears do not hibernate and may be encountered while out foraging any month of the year. Many sightings occur during May, June, and July, when yearling boars are dispersing away from the sow and wander long distances, including across our borders from neighboring states. Also, during this time, cubs that were born in February are out of their den sites and following the sow to feed, primarily on vegetation.
Black bears prefer to avoid interactions with humans. If you see one, do not approach it and do not run. Ensure that the bear is aware of your presence by standing upright, waving your arms, and making loud sounds. Confirm that the bear has an easy route to leave the area. Slowly back away as you continue to shoo the bear with bold movements and noises. In the rare event of a black bear attack, fight back vigorously and strike the bear’s face with any accessible objects.
Curiosity brings black bears close to homes where they find easy meals of pet food, wildlife feed, trash, and morsels from the BBQ grill. Bears that associate humans with food can quickly become a nuisance by damaging property and behaving dangerously. Residents can have a positive impact on the success of Alabama’s black bears by keeping food items indoors and waiting until pickup day to place trash out. By reporting sightings of bears or their sign, you help biologists understand their movements and distribution. Do this and find out more about black bears at: www.outdooralabama.com. For more tips on living near bears, visit: www.bearwise.org.