Black bear populations are on the rise in North Carolina, prompting wildlife officials to consider implementing efforts to control their numbers.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, there were only about 2,000 black bears in eastern North Carolina in 1980. That number has increased to over 10,000 bears today, WCTI12 reported.
Wildlife officials are considering making changes to bear hunting laws due to the growing population. For instance, they may increase the limit of one bear a hunter can kill each season, and hunters will be allowed to use bait this year during the November and December seasons.
And as the weather turns warmer, more people are encountering black bears. The months of July and August, in particular, are when bears are mostly on the move, wildlife officials say, according to the Daily Reflector. Mature males seek out females to mate with during this breeding period and females drive out juvenile males who must find their own territory.
A family of black bears was already sighted in Pitt County recently.
But fatalities are still rare. A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2011 stated that 63 people were killed by non-captive black bears from 1900-2009. In 38 percent of these incidents, "peoples' food or garbage probably influenced the bear being in the attack location," the authors wrote.
There are three species of bears native to North America - the polar bear, the brown - or grizzly - bear and the black bear. Black bears, which are the smallest and most common, are the only ones found in North Carolina and the eastern United States.
These bears prefer large expanses of uninhabited woodland or swampland with dense cover, the Reflector reported. In eastern North Carolina, that includes lowland hardwoods, swamps and pocosins - a type of wetland composed of acidic and nutrient deficient soils.
Female black bears are about five to six feet long and can weigh up to 200-300 pounds. Males are considerably larger, running seven to eight feet long and weighing anywhere from 200-700 pounds. The largest on record is a male in Craven County that weighed 880 pounds.
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