The Sapphire Valley area is a natural habitat for the black bear.
(Image: Courtesy Bill Lea and Mountain Wildlife Days)
A few years ago a black bear had a daily routine of checking all the normal trash cans between Round Hill Estates, over to Golf Club Estates and then straight to the Community Center. We tried to find him on Round Hill and did catch up with him at the Sapphire Valley Community Center.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BLACK BEAR
The black bear is an omnivore with a diet of both plants and animals. It varies in color: in North Carolina, the black bear is usually black with a brown muzzle and sometimes a white patch on its chest, commonly referred to as a chest blaze. In other areas of North America, black bears can be a very common brown color or a more rare blue and white. All bear species have five toes on each foot and each toe has a sharp curved claw enabling the bear to feed on insects and grubs in decaying logs. Black bears rely mostly on their sense of smell and hearing due to poor eyesight, but are adept at climbing, running, swimming and digging. They have been clocked at speeds of 35 miles per hour over short distances.
Bears prefer large expanses of uninhabited woodland or swampland with dense cover. In the east, lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins, provide good bear habitat. Recent research has shown bears to be much more adaptable to habitat changes than previously thought and some bears have adapted to living near developed areas.
Denning and Hibernation
Bears put on additional weight in autumn to prepare for winter denning. They build dens in cavities of live trees, hollow logs, caves, rock outcroppings, cavities in the ground, or in a thicket. Usually black bears construct nests of leaves, sticks, and grass within the den, which often resemble giant bird nests. In North Carolina, den entry can occur as early as November or as late as January, though male bears in the coastal plain region may active throughout winter. Most North Carolina bears emerge from their dens in March or early April, depending on the weather and mobility of their cubs.
What do I do if I see a bear?
Bears live in many North Carolina counties, and they are not usually dangerous unless humans feed or provoke them. Enjoy this rare chance, but from a distance.
The bear in your backyard may be dispersing through your neighborhood or searching for a mate. It will not stay in a settled area unless it finds a reliable food source.
If you see a bear:
Try to stay calm.
If you are one of the lucky people to have encountered the bear, observe it at a safe distance and appreciate the opportunity to see one of North Carolina's largest native mammals.
Don’t run away. Make the bear aware of your presence speaking in an assertive voice, clap your hands, wave your arms above your head to try to make yourself look bigger and make a lot of noise.
Back up and slowly walk away.
Keep children nearby.
Keep pets locked up.
Don’t approach a bear.
Never surround or corner a bear.
If you happen to meet a bear at close range, back away slowly and make lots of noise.
Never feed bears or any wild animals, even if they look hungry or tame.
Take extra precautions not to feed bears accidentally —bears are attracted to garbage, food scraps, pet food and many other forms of human food. Keep such foods locked away from bears in strong, safe places.
Bears that wander into a residential area are sometimes frightened by dogs or residents and climb trees. Keep people away from the scene and the bear will come down and leave when it no longer feels threatened (often after dark).
(This section courtesy: NC Department of Resources Commission - Wildlife