Black Bear population in North Carolina is on the rise, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission.
As the weather continues to heat up, more people are encountering black bears. Summer, particularly July and August, is when bears are on the move, according to wildlife officials. Mature males seek females during this breeding period and mother bears drive off juvenile males who must seek their own territory.
The black bear is the only bear species found in North Carolina or anywhere in the eastern United States. The successful comeback of the American black bear in North Carolina represents one of wildlife management’s greatest achievements.
Black bears were once restricted to remote areas and reached very low population levels in the mid-1900s. Today, black bears are found approximately 60% of the total land area of North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, there were only about 2,000 black bears in eastern North Carolina in 1980. That number has increased to over 10,000 bears today.
Wildlife officials are now considering changes to bear hunting laws because the population is getting so large. One change for this year is hunters will be allowed to use bait during the November and December seasons.
Other changes being considered are increasing the limit of one bear a hunter can kill each season.
Black bears prefer large uninhabited woodland or swampland with dense cover. In eastern North Carolina, that includes lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins – a type of wetland composed of acidic and nutrient deficient soils. Their diets typically consist of acorns, berries, carrion, corn, fish, frogs, fruits, grasses, grubs, honey, insects, larvae, leaves, nuts, peanuts, reptiles, roots, seeds, small mammals, soybeans and wheat.
Fatalities are rare even with the increase in population. A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2011 stated that 63 people were killed by non-captive black bears from 1900-2009. In 38 percent of these incidents, “peoples’ food or garbage probably influenced the bear being in the attack location,” the authors wrote.
There have been black bear sightings reported in a Winterville neighborhood July 19th, reported WITN. The next day, a black bear and car collided on NC 118 near Riverside Road in Craven County.
Reports indicate the bears are living as far west as Interstate 95.