OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - It started out as a normal evening walk for Shelly Holston and her neighbors around the Towne Lake subdivision in Opelika last week, when they came across an unexpected visitor.
They snapped a photo of a black bear running across a backyard.
"How far do you think your were from the bear? Not far enough, we turned around and took off back my way. I was in disbelief. I just couldn't believe there was bear in the neighborhood," says Holston.
Experts say bears are rare in our area and there have been three reported sightings in east Alabama in the past five years.
Urbanization is one guess of why the bears becoming more comfortable in the open.
"The other possibility could be, just like raccoons and possums, they are opportunity feeders and will go where there's food and so they may have smelled dog food on someone's back deck," explains Lee County Alabama Extension Coordinator, Chuck Browne.
To stay safe against wildlife in general, Browne suggests people not leave animal food out, keep lids on trash cans, and store trash inside until the day it is collected.
Also, steer clear of trying to handle the animal yourself.
"Just leave it alone. I had reports of some people trying to shoot at these animals and that is illegal to do. If they have real concerns contact the conservation officers," says Browne.
As for Holston, she says she will not rest easy until the bear is caught.
"I'm in and out; the garage is up and down. We haven't walked anymore since then. It's just like it has shut everything down. We don't know what to do."