(WJTV) — Black bear sightings across the state are growing more common as we approach warmer temperatures and right now we are at the peak of their breeding season.
These massive animals aren’t just hanging out in the mountains anymore; you can spot one just about anywhere.
Richard Rummel and his team at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks are gearing up for an active summer.
They’ve already had several sightings of black bears across the state, but this comes as no surprise to Rummel.
“It’s breeding season for bears we’re kind of at the height of that right now and also cubs that were born last year late January early February spent the last year and a half with their mom, and now they’re going out to breed again,” Rummel warns.
During the summer months, bears are out looking for food and new territory and their excellent sense of smell and sight makes them very curious hunters.
“We often joke they’re like a big raccoon, they’re looking for an easy meal,” he said. “They’re kind of lazy. So if there is some garbage around your house we encourage people to not leave pet food out overnight,” he said.
Rummel says they have a great memory as well, so it’s not uncommon for bears to return to a place where they found an easy snack.
“Grills, smokers things like that that smell really good to a bear, try to keep those kind of clean because they are attracted to those,” Rummel explained.
If you come across a bear it’s best to keep your distance, Rummel says they’ll usually give you warning sign to let you know you’re too close.
“If you come close they’ll start popping their jaws it’s kind of like they’ll clack their jaws together. They’ll huff and puff and maybe even stamp their front feet on the ground and what they’re saying is you’re a little too close back off,” he said.
Remember it is illegal to hunt or shoot bears unless you are using a gun in self-defense, the fine for killing or hurting one of these endangered animals can result in a $5,000 fine or jail time.