Last Friday an area resident reported spotting a mother black bear and three cubs on Westfield Road. The recent sighting comes only a month after a Black Bear was spotted on West Independence Boulevard in Mount Airy.
According to the resident, the four bears were seen walking through a cemetery just outside the city limits. However, the bear sighting was not reported to the Mount Airy Police Department, Surry County Sheriff’s Department nor Surry County Animal Control, according to officials from those organizations.
According to the American Bear Association female black bears have a litter of cubs every two years. Generally, most litters are two or three cubs. The mother bear keeps her cubs with her for about two-and-a-half years, before pushing the young bears out on their own.
The recent sightings of bears in and around Mount Airy are anomalous, according to a North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission study. In a 2012 study, that entity included Mount Airy in an “unoccupied range” in 2010. Most of the black bear population in Surry County could be found in the northwest corner of the county.
It is at least the second bear sighting reported in Mount Airy over the past month. Around June 10, several people reported seeing a black bear around West Independence Boulevard.
Since the 1980s the bear population has been slowly increasing its range in Surry County, making its way toward Mount Airy. Additionally, the study points to increases in the human population and an increasingly “fragmented” forestry habitat as other reasons for increases in the number of bear encounters in recent years.
According to the wildlife commission, black bears are the only species of bear in North Carolina. That should be welcomed news, since the commission states that the larger grizzly bear species, which are predominately found in the Western United States, are much more aggressive toward humans.
The commission has a few tips for folks who encounter black bears. Chief among these is not to feed wild bears or leave trash containers or pet food in places to which bears can gain access. That entity points out that most black bears are simply looking for something to eat.
In an informational pamphlet the commission explains that those who encounter bears should remain calm and simply back away from the bear slowly while making a lot of noise.
Overall, the outlook for a Mount Airy resident who happens upon a black bear is pretty good. According to the wildlife commission there has never been an unprovoked bear attack in North Carolina. Additionally, the commission states that black bears are usually shy and non-aggressive toward humans.
Andy is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]