Well, sweetie, keep your eyes peeled!
"Take in the garbage, remove the bird feeders and stay alert on the Blue Ridge Parkway: The bears are waking up," says the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Black bear sightings are starting to roll in from around the region as the state's largest wild mammals leave their winter dens in search of food.
While the occasional bear sighting now might be exciting, it likely won't be long before problems start to arise between animals and humans.
“Bear-human interaction season is about to begin,” said Mike Carraway, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Biologists said a bumper acorn crop last fall could mean fewer bears will be out looking for food. There should still be leftover acorns for the animals to eat, said Colleen Olfenbuttel, black bear biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“Because of all the acorns, they were really able to fatten themselves,” she said. “They are healthier and in better shape coming out of hibernation, so they won't look for artificial food sources like bird feeders and garbage cans.”
But the acorn abundance also means female bears gave birth to more cubs that likely survived the winter. ...
“We expect to see a lot of bear activity this year,” said Bob Miller, a spokesman with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park has about 1,600 bears, or two bears every square mile.
Wow. That many? We may not have to look far to spot the "cute, little bears."
The number of bear-human interactions has increased as both populations have grown. There are now 11,000 bears in North Carolina, with between 4,000 and 6,000 in the mountains.
The bumper acorn crop last fall kept the number of complaints about problem bears in Western North Carolina down. There were 236 complaints last year compared with 393 in 2009, Carraway said. ...
Male bears start coming out of their dens and wandering around in late March and early April, when the weather warms, days are longer and plants start blooming.
Female bears and their cubs come out later in April, once the young bears are able to keep up with their mothers.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has hundreds of bear sightings every year and has had to close some picnic areas in recent years because of problem bears.
“No feeding the bears and not approaching them too closely — I don't think you can say that enough,” said Tom Davis, a wildlife biologist at the Blue Ridge Parkway. “We have issues with people feeding the bears, luring them in with a hamburger or a doughnut to get that magical picture, but people just don't realize that it takes just one incidence for a bear to get habituated to human food.” ...
“People are definitely excited,” said Jessica Krippel, animal naturalist at the nature center. “All winter long we get questions about ‘where are the bears?' People definitely hang around if they see they see they are being active.”