No Open Season
Black bear sow and two cubs from a research site in Dekalb County, Alabama - Summer 2012. Photo courtesy of Auburn University
Historically, Alabama’s black bear population only occurred in the southwest portion of the State, primarily in Mobile, Washington and Clarke Counties. The bears of this region of the State are of the Florida subspecies, Ursus americanus floridanus, and while in low numbers here, are quite abundant throughout many areas of Florida. In recent years, black bears have steadily immigrated into northeast Alabama from northwest Georgia, primarily to Dekalb, Cherokee and Etowah Counties, and have established a small, but viable population in that region of the State. While these bears look very similar to the Florida bear, they are classified as a different subspecies, the American Black Bear, Ursus americanus americanus. In addition to these core areas, sporadic bear sightings have been documented in other areas throughout the State, which may indicate that Alabama’s black bear populations are slowly increasing.
A 112lb female black bear that was captured and radio-collared as part of a research project with Auburn University
The future of Alabama’s black bears lies with its citizens. It is the responsibility of Alabamians to take proactive measures to avoid creating situations that could encourage them to become habituated to humans. Bears are easily attracted to residential areas where easy sources of food are available such as pet food, bird feeders and household garbage. When humans live within bear country, these easy food sources must be removed to decrease conflicts between people and bears. Place trash outside on pick-up days, not left overnight. Remove deer and bird feeders at the first sighting of bear activity. Feed pets inside or if fed outside, only feed the amount that will be consumed by your pet in a short time. Storing grills and smokers inside when not in use can avoid damage to your cooking equipment. These simple efforts can lead to maintaining bears in their wild state and avoid human/bear conflicts.
If you see a bear in your area, remain calm and don’t approach the bear. The fact that you have seen a bear doesn’t necessarily represent a problem, it may simply be passing through the area. It will most likely not stick around long if there is no available food source. During the spring and summer months, adult males increase their ranges dramatically in search of receptive females and young subadult bears are dispersing from their mothers territory. These two situations will most likely be responsible for the majority of sightings during this time of the year.
If you do encounter a bear at close range:
· Do not run from the bear but back away slowly
· Stand tall and upright
· Avoid direct eye contact
· Make sure the bear has a free direction to escape
Never purposely feed a bear.
Alabama's Large Carnivore Coordinator
30571 Five Rivers Boulevard
Spanish Fort, AL 36527