Monica Jeranek was delivering newspapers Tuesday morning when she saw a large shape in the road outside the Pinewood Lakes subdivision in the predawn darkness. So, she stopped and aimed her high headlight beams at the shape.
"He was massively huge," Jeranek said. "When I backed up and saw how big his behind was -- there's no dog that I know of that would have a 3-foot-wide behind."
She watched as the shape climbed over a chain-link fence and scurried off into the woods, and she then called police to report a bear sighting.
Two Hope Mills police officers saw the bear Wednesday morning near Hawthorne Drive.
"It's a real bear. It's not the figment of anybody's imagination," Hope Mills Police Chief John Hodges said. "It's supposed to be the size of a small pony. So, it's not a cub, but it's not a full-sized bear."
The bear is believed to be roaming the woods near the intersection of
Legion and Pinewood roads
. Baldwin Elementary School and dozens of homes are located nearby.
"They won't go out to play until the bear's caught," Hope Mills resident Al Ackerman said of his children.
Authorities said construction and timber harvesting might have destroyed the bear's habitat and pushed it into the neighborhoods.
Two animal control officers searched for the bear Wednesday, armed with shotguns.
"This is just in case worse comes to worst," said Paul Howard, one of the animal control officers. "We're not out here to kill it."
A trapper is on standby to catch the bear and release it into an unpopulated area.
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