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Baby black bear wandering in Cabarrus County

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The country bear came to the city of Concord Saturday, setting off a flurry of calls to police from residents startled at the sight of a 300-pound black bear lumbering through the streets.

After spending about two hours in the city, the bear was shepherded by Concord police back into a more rural part of Cabarrus County.

“We don’t have a lot of experience at herding bears, but I thought we did pretty well,” Concord police Sgt. David Smith said.

There were no injuries to humans or to four-legged critters.

Authorities surmise the bear that visited Concord on Saturday is the same animal spotted Tuesday at Rock Creek Park in Albemarle and elsewhere in Stanly County, then again several times Friday between Mount Pleasant and Concord.

The natural habitat for black bear in North Carolina is either in the mountains or at the coast, but wildlife experts say the animals occasionally visit the Piedmont in the summer, when looking for new homes. In July 2006, a black bear was seen several times in Huntersville and Cornelius.

And there were sightings last weekend in north Raleigh of a bear.

Ann May, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, told the Raleigh News & Observer last week that young males can travel hundreds of miles on their journeys. She said they tend to follow natural formations, like rivers and lakes, but sometimes encounter the urban world.

The male bear was spotted about 8 a.m. Saturday on a greenway in Concord near J.W. McGee Park, off Branchview Drive, police say. An hour later, Chris Smith of Concord tweeted that he saw the bear run across Union Street, near the downtown area.

“The bear never made any aggressive moves,” Smith said. “If we saw people outside, we advised them to go back in. We also made a reverse 911 call to about 11,000 residents, advising them of the bear.”

Wildlife experts advise the public to give black bears some space, and not to confront or chase them.

“Eventually, they’ll leave,” Smith said.

He said police used patrol cars as barriers, to force the bear out of the city. He was last seen around midday Saturday near a neighborhood off Rocky River Road, according to a spokesman at the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says its officers will not try to trap or catch the bears. Instead, they try to ensure that the public stays away from the animals.

Officials say residents should not feed bears and should try to ensure that the animals don’t have access to food. That includes pet food and bird feeders, authorities say.

The black bear population in North Carolina has grown considerably in recent decades, from less than 5,000 in 1980 to more than 17,000 in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107
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