Four counties in north Alabama are now on the growing list of places where black bear sightings have been reported this year, state wildlife officials said.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Tuesday that Jackson, Limestone, Marshall and Morgan counties have all had reports of black bears this year. St. Clair County just outside of Birmingham also had a sighting reported this year, they said.
Officials said they believe the state's population of black bears is expending dur to a number of factors, including seasonal movement, habitat fragmentation and summer mating season. Most spring and summer bear sightings are juvenile males who are pushed out of their normal ranges by their mothers and adult males, officials said.
State wildlife experts say black bears prefer to avoid humans but will sometimes explore populated areas looking for food.
Anyone who comes into contact with a black bear is advised to leave it alone. Shooting them or shooting at them is a misdemeanor. Officials also offered these tips:
• Do not run from the bear.
• Avoid direct eye contact with the bear.
• Encourage the bear to move away by waving your arms and yelling as you slowly back away.
• Make sure the bear has an unobstructed direction to escape.
• In the unlikely event of an attack, fight back. Never “play dead.”
• Never approach or purposely feed a bear.
• Store all food indoors or in a bear-resistant container.
• Do not leave pet food outside overnight.
• Keep trash cans clean and don’t put trash out until the morning of pick up.
• Avoid feeding birds and other wildlife from April to January when bears are most active.
Bear sightings in Alabama can be reported online at this link. People can also contact their local Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office; the listing of offices is on OutdoorAlabama.com.