That was likely the case for the male American Black Bear that was shot and killed on County Home Road Wednesday, according to John Shaw, District Biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
“Bears go through a dispersal process. All mammals do this,” said Shaw. “It usually happens in males. He was probably just a young bear, about two years old, who was pushed out of his home range by larger males of by the mother, and was looking for a (new) home range.”
Shaw said the bear was probably from the coastal region of North Carolina, or perhaps South Carolina.
“When they take off, they can go anywhere from a couple of miles to 100 miles away,” said Shaw. “They have no idea what’s around the next corner, and they can end up in unusual place. We’ve had calls for bears in Charlotte. Chances are he was just passing through looking for new territory, a new home range.”
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office received a call around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday reporting that a bear had been sightednear 1028 County Home Road. Sheriff Dale Furr said several deputies responded, and they called Wildlife Resources Commission officials in hopes of getting someone with a tranquilizer gun on the scene.
“Deputies spotted the bear in a wooded area right behind some houses, about 40 to 50 yards from where children were playing,” said Furr. “People in this area, especially children, are not used to being around bears. If that bear was to have gone into someone’s yard looking for food or garbage, somebody could have gotten killed.”
When the bear began to move back into the woods — and out of sight — Detective Sergeant Keith Mabe followed it to maintain its location until Wildlife could arrive. His pursuit became a face-to-face confrontation when the bear stood up on its hind legs in front of the detective.
“He was in an aggressive stance, and I knew that if I didn’t react to him then he would react to me,” said Mabe, who shot and killed the bear with a shotgun before wildlife officials got to the scene.
“He was in danger, and he felt the community there was in danger — especially the children,” said Furr.
Mabe said wildlife officials had arrived by the time he and another detective were hauling the animal’s body out of the woods. The location is near N.C. Hwy 177.
According to Shaw, who handled analysis of the body, the young male weighed between 235 and 240 pounds and would have stood about five feet tall when standing on its hind legs. He added that this is not necessarily an aggressive stance.
“In my opinion, it’s more of a curiosity thing,” said Shaw. “They stand up on their hind legs to get a different perspective of what they’re looking at. It’s not usually threatening.”
But it looked threatening to Mabe. Born and raised in Ellerbe, the detective said this was his first encounter with a predator of that size.
“I didn’t want to terminate it, but I felt threatened,” said Mabe. “I’ve always been told that (standing up) was their way of showing dominance.”
According to Shaw, when bears faced with dispersal end up in places like Richmond County, they are usually just trying to pass through and find suitable habitat. While most of their long distance movement will take place at night, they may occasionally stop during the say to take a rest if they find a cool spot in the woods.
“They’re going to keep on moving; they’re not going to set up camp in your backyard,” said Shaw. “They’re really not aggressive animals but they definitely should be respected. They have the potential to hurt people, but that rarely happens.”