Black Bear Project

The first lines of  E.E. Cummings’ famous poem invite us to embrace a season that is “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful.”

The welcome warmth and blooming flowers of spring we so enjoy are anything but pleasant for the black bears that roam our mountains.

Spring is the hardest time of the year for our ursine neighbors. It’s important we recognize that fact and ensure our human behaviors don’t endanger the bears even more.

Our bears have just recently come out of their drowsy winter dens. That emergence takes place each year, March through May, following the bears’ winter doldrums of inactivity. They don’t eat during the denning lethargy, losing weight during that soft hibernation, and instead rely on the fat they built up during last fall’s gorging.

They are very hungry when spring rolls around, but the berry crops they depend on for food won’t fully ripen until around June. Bears will continue to lose weight for a while, and starvation can be a legitimate concern this time of year. Bottom line: Our black bears are ravenously hungry right now and they are looking for things to eat!

Where will they search for new sources of food? A simple answer, and a dangerous one for them, is around locations where food is easily available and provided inadvertently by humans. That includes calorie-rich birdfeeders, pet food left outside, household garbage and trash and even smelly grills left on decks after last night’s burgers.

It’s not hard to imagine the consequences when bears are attracted to areas where humans live and gather. The interaction between a hungry wild animal and people can be a potentially deadly proposition for both parties. Dangerous animals cannot be tolerated when they threaten human life and property. Nor should we tolerate careless or misinformed humans who help create those confrontations. You know the poster slogan: “A fed bear is a dead bear.” That’s not kidding.

There’s a huge difference between sighting a curious bear who is wandering through the woods or backyards looking for dinner versus a bear that has been conditioned to return to a home site where he has found food reinforcement. The curious wandering bear will move on; the food-finder is likely to become a recurrent, though unwanted, house guest.  

Statistics clearly indicate the month of May is the most dangerous time of the year for black bear incidents (and attacks) on humans. Please be a courteous activist and make sure you and your neighbors (and all of us in this great Big Canoe community) understand that respecting wildlife includes not attracting them anywhere near our homes.

We have made significant progress in reducing negative bear incidents in this rare place we enjoy. That’s because of public buy-in and your commitment to “living in harmony with wildlife in the North Georgia mountains.” Did you recognize this is the motto of the Black Bear Project?  A big thank-you for being the most important part of this team.