Wildlife experts ease Opelika residents' minds about bear sightings

(WTVM) - Numerous black bear sightings have been reported in the Opelika, Al. area this summer.

"It really was a bear! She said, 'That's a bear,' and it actually was a bear standing in the yard," says Opelika resident Shelly Holston.

Over the past months, residents have brought their concerns about the bears to the authorities and city council members.

Thursday, September 5, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, along with wildlife experts from Auburn University, held a public meeting to address citizen's questions.

"Alabama has always had bears, just not very many. The state maybe has only a hundred bears in it," explains AU Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Dr. Todd Steury.

Steury says there are only two bear populations in Alabama. One is located in northeast Alabama near Fort Payne, and the other is in the southwest part of the state near Mobile. He believes the recent sightings in Lee County have all been the same bear who traveled from Georgia.

"We're not that far from a real bear population," says Steury. "There's a real bear population in central Georgia, which is probably where this bear came from, and every year the young males from that population will go out exploring, looking for a new place to settle down."

Steury has not heard of any bear sightings since the beginning of August, but he suggests removing any possible food source from your home to prevent the possibility of bears visiting your neighborhood.

Steury explains that bears generally avoid humans, and being seen. "Having said that, if they find a good food source, they'll be coming back to it over and over again," he says. 

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