What to do when you encounter a bear

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A few recent black bear sightings in the Huntsville area have prompted the spread of some basic safety guidelines when it comes to bear encounters.

Most people are usually excited about seeing wildlife, until the wildlife comes into their space.

“They’re looking for trash, they’re looking for old food,” said Marcus Garner, and Urban Regional Extension Agent with Alabama A&M.

Wildlife is abundant in north Alabama: coyotes, foxes, skunks, deer, and even black bears.

“If you’re walking in the park and you happen to see a black bear, you want to stop and exit the way you came,” Garner said. “Never run, because you don’t want to excite the animal to chase behind you.”

But you can avoid close encounters with bears in the first place by keeping your yard/garden/garage free of garbage, and extra tree debris. Loud music and bright lights also help to deter black bears.

And it’s important to note, there is no open season for bears in Alabama. It is illegal to kill a bear unless you’re in imminent danger. And a lot of bears in Alabama are part of research studies.

“When you see a black bear or any type of wildlife, call somebody,” Garner said. “Let them know where you are, where you see the bear.”

And it might be tempting to share your bear sighting with friends on social media, but do NOT stick around long enough to take a picture, or especially a selfie with a bear.

Taking preventative measures in the first place will keep everyone, people and bears alike, happy and safe.

“What we need to do is be good stewards of our environment and dispose of all the trash, and all the other things that bring this wildlife to our yards,” Garner said.


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