Bears on the move through north Atlanta suburbs

Employees at North Atlanta Fireplace Grill and Patio, located at South Peachtree Street near Norcross, saw a bear outside their workplace on June 16. (Courtesy of Lacey White)
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Employees at North Atlanta Fireplace Grill and Patio, located at South Peachtree Street near Norcross, saw a bear outside their workplace on June 16. (Courtesy of Lacey White)

At least two black bears have strayed from their wooded homes and are roaming the streets of north metro Atlanta, according to an official with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

Images have surfaced on social media of the furry creatures roaming through neighborhoods and past businesses across the metro area. The bears have made their way through Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton counties.

Kaitlin Goode, manger for DNR’s Urban Wildlife Program, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that the agency last spotted a bear in Norcross on Friday afternoon. Berkeley Lake residents noticed a bear in their neighborhoods over the weekend, but Goode is unsure if it’s the same bear seen in Norcross.

The agency also tracked a bear near Marietta over the weekend. Officials found a bear in Sandy Springs by Abernathy Road and Roswell Road, believing it’s the same Cobb County bear.

Employees at North Atlanta Fireplace Grill and Patio saw one of the bears roaming outside their business on South Peachtree Street near Norcross last Wednesday.

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Employees at North Atlanta Fireplace Grill and Patio, located at South Peachtree Street near Norcross, saw a bear outside their workplace on June 16.

Lacey White, one of the employees, saw the bear outside the glass doors at the business. Thinking the bear had left, she went outside to get an item out of a storage container.

“As soon as I opened the door, he was like two feet in front of me in a bush,” White said. “I took off running.”

The bear went around the storage container before climbing a tree and hopping over a fence “like a human” into a wooded area, White said.

Suspected to be male, the young black bear in Norcross looks to weigh about 70 pounds. (Courtesy of Lacey White)
Caption
Suspected to be male, the young black bear in Norcross looks to weigh about 70 pounds. (Courtesy of Lacey White)

Credit: Lacey White

Credit: Lacey White

Goode said she believes both bears are male. The bear in Norcross appears to weigh about 70 pounds, while the bear in Marietta looks a bit bigger, she said.

In Georgia, black bears are found across the state. An adult male can weigh up to 500 pounds, but they’re not as aggressive as other bear varieties. There are few recorded fatal black bear attacks in the Southeast.

It’s normal for young male bears to wander into unusual places during early summer as it coincides with breeding season, Goode said. The young male bears are kicked out by their moms and must look for a new home, she said. Adult male bears might attack young males if they don’t give them space and leave, she said.

While it’s unusual for the agency to sight two bears at once, they find their way into the metro area nearly every year, Goode said.

“Neighborhoods provide a very easy food source for them,” Goode said. “Garbage, pet food and birdseed are much easier to forage for than natural foods, so it’s an easy food source.”

The agency tries to let the bears wander until they find their way back into the woods unless they cause a dangerous disturbance, Goode said.

If a bear causes chaos or is threatening, officials can chemically sedate it, but it takes 10 minutes for the bear to fall asleep and they can sometimes cause more havoc as they try to get away, Goode said. The DNR can move sedated bears to the north Georgia mountains or the central region of the state, depending on its type.

What to do if you see a bear

  • If the bear is in a closed location, like a building or by a dumpster, give it a clear escape route. Back away from the bear and leave any doors open for it to leave.
  • If the bear is in your backyard, try to scare it away from a safe distance by making loud noises. Remove potential attractants like pet food, birdseed or garbage after the bear is gone.
  • If the bear is in the woods, move away quietly in the opposite direction if it hasn’t noticed you. If it has noticed you, back away slowly in the opposite direction. Do not run.

For more information on bear encounters, visit bearwise.org. You can report a bear sighting to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources by calling its ranger hotline at 800-241-4113.