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Bear sighted in Union County

By Elisabeth Arriero and Steve Lyttle
earriero@charlotteobserver.com slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

A black bear was spotted near Morgan Mill and Haigler Gin roads on Monday morning, the Union County Sheriff’s Office said.

Officers received a call for service from a resident shortly after 8 a.m. about the bear sighting, which officials believe may be connected to sightings in Cabarrus County over the weekend.

When officials responded in Union County, the bear had already run into the woods, said Sgt. Lynn Yow.

“We’re monitoring it to make sure no one is harmed,” he said. “Really it’s just a bear being a bear in its own environment.”

The country bear came to Concord on 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 was 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.

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

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 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.

Arriero: 704-804-2637Twitter: @earriero
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