Go west, young bear

Posted May 23, 2011 4:23 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2011 6:20 p.m. EDT

— Bear sightings continued across the Triangle on Monday, with a black bear cutting through morning traffic in Durham and a bear later romping across a Chapel Hill golf course.

Greg Batts, a biologist with the state Wildlife Resources Commission, said it's impossible to know whether the sightings – they started last Wednesday in Garner and have continued through Raleigh on Thursday and Cary on Saturday – are the same animal or not.

Johan Meurling shot a quick video on his way to work near Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 751 in Durham as a bear crossed the road and headed into some nearby woods. Bernadette Tillman said the same bear streaked in front of her car as she was on N.C. Highway 54 headed to Chapel Hill.

"My eyes got big, (and) my mouth dropped open," Tillman said. "I've seen bears at the zoo but not running in front of my car."

Later, people spotted a bear at Finley Golf Course and the North Carolina Botanical Garden, both near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

"I turned and looked and saw this black, fuzzy thing going down the pathway," said Beckie Norris, who was with friend Barbara Sirucek at the botanical garden. "I looked at her and said, 'Did you see the bear?' and she said, 'Nope. A bear?!' and I said, 'Yeah.'"

The bear left a paw print in the mud to confirm its visit.

Batts said the bear or bears could have followed rivers south from Virginia or could have come from North Carolina's coast or mountains.

June is breeding season for the animals, he said, and it's also the time of year when mother bears kick young males out of the den and force them to find their own range. Male bears have ranges of about 70 square miles and can travel 10 to 12 miles a day, he said.

Ben Hess, mammal collections manager at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, said the animals are most likely passing through looking for food and mates.

"You’re only going to have a bear moving through in the central part of the state because the best resources for bears are really on the coast and in the mountains," Hess said.

Bear sightings

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