Although it’s unlikely you’ll meet a bear camping in the woods, you might actually meet a bear while YOU are camping in the woods.
Should that happen, follow these seven simple rules:
Rule Number One: There are 5,100 bears in Georgia’s woods. There’s probably only one of you. Tick them off and they win.
Rule Number Two: No matter how many Spiderman, Dirty Harry or Terminator movies you have watched, bears are more likely to eat you than you are to eat them. You might not believe that, but the bears do. Trust me on this one, OK?
Rule Number Three: Just as there are two levels of lion tamers — Skilled and Dead — there are only two likely outcomes if you try to feed a bear by hand. If you don’t want to be known as “Lefty,” don’t feed the bears.
Rule Number Four: Try not to slather yourself in BBQ sauce and sleep with your leftover food in your tent. Bears will think you’re a sandwich with condiments.
Rule Number Five: Don’t leave any food, drinks, coolers or garbage in the open. Scents from such things as toothpaste, deodorant and soap can attract bears. And not in a good way.
Rule Number Six: When camping in the backcountry, place these items inside a knapsack and hoist it out of reach of bears and other wildlife at least 10 feet off the ground and six feet from the tree trunk. No, you don’t have to sleep in a tree. Consider using rope or vines, Tarzan.
Rule Number Seven: If you are confronted by a giant angry bear, it’s better to flee for your life than to entertain him or her with your best Yogi or Boo-Boo impersonation. Remember, you do not have to outrun the bear — only your slowest companion.
The Bear Facts from the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division
“Bears can become habituated to people when they are fed – whether intentional or not. When a bear knows it can get a ‘free meal,’ it will return again and again until eventually it loses its natural fear of humans. This is when the majority of human-bear conflicts occur, and the bear is labeled a nuisance,” explained Adam Hammond, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
Black bears commonly are found in three areas of the state: the North Georgia mountains, the Ocmulgee River drainage system in central Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp in the southeastern part of the state. However, black bears can and do range over larger areas; especially in early spring and late summer, when natural food sources are scarce. Young male bears are also known to disperse in an effort to establish their own territory. Such as your campsite.
The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, the only bear found in the state and a high-priority species in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive conservation strategy. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia by the 1930s due to unregulated market hunting, poaching and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management practices have restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 5,100 bears statewide.