LANETT, Ala — Police warn residents to be on alert for a black bear spotted throughout the day Monday. Lanett police say a the bear was first spotted early Monday morning in the 1500 block of south 8th Avenue. The bear was seen in the wooded area across the street from Lanett High School.
Lanett Police Chief Angie Spates says soon after, the bear was seen heading towards Magnolia Road and then later crossing I-85 headed towards Valley. Spates says the bear did not cause any property damage and stayed well away from people.
Alabama state wildlife officials say the black bear population is rising and residents should expect more sightings.
“All bears sighted this year have been behaving normally and exhibiting a natural fear of humans,” says Steve Bryant, District 2 Supervising Wildlife Biologist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “So far there are no reports of bears acclimating to human activities and causing any property damage.”
Black bears are a protected species in Alabama so Chief Spates says anyone who sees one should report a bear sighting but stay away. The Alabama WFF office says shooting a black bear can result in jail time and a minimum $2000 fine and shooting at a black bear can be punished with potential loss of hunting and fishing license privileges for three years and possible jail time.
What should you do if you encounter/observe a black bear? WFF offers these suggestions:
- Do not be frightened.
- Do not approach the animal.
- Do not run from the bear; back away slowly.
- Stand tall and upright and make loud noises.
- Avoid direct eye contact with the bear.
- Make sure the bear has an unobstructed direction to escape.
- Never purposely feed a bear.
- Never approach a bear with cubs; this will provoke an attack.
“These animals are an important wildlife resource in Alabama woodlands,” Bryant says. “If you have an unexpected encounter with a black bear, don’t panic. Consider yourself lucky to have had the experience.”