On the heels of Nelson Police Chief Heath Mitchell’s run-in with a black bear, the city of Nelson is warning residents to protect themselves from animals, which are believed to be moving into the city, searching for food to fatten up for the winter.
Nelson City Manager Brandy Edwards said the city is urging residents to “bear-proof” their property following recent calls about bears turning up at homes and reports of missing cats and kittens around town.
The city’s issues with black bears first came to light two weeks ago when Mitchell was called to a house on Habersham Way where a bear had made itself at home on the porch and was rummaging through garbage.
Normally, by the time law enforcement responds to such a call, Mitchell said the bear is gone. But this time he arrived to find it still on the porch, still eating trash.
Mitchell said he tried to run the bear off, but it just turned and growled, walking closer toward him.
“I always heard you don’t run from a bear,” he said. “So I stood there.”
Mitchell said he tried to make it leave again, and perhaps spooked by his persistence, it jumped off the porch and ran for the woods.
But it didn’t go straight back home to the thicket.
“He was a smart bear,” Mitchell said. “When he got to Pickens Street he stopped and looked both ways to make sure nobody was coming.”
After the incident, Mitchell said he talked to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and was told he handled the run-in well.
“They told me he bluffed me when he growled, but I bluffed him when I didn’t move,” he said.
Mitchell said that sighting wasn’t the last of the animal, which he theorizes is the same 1½-year old black bear.
Several more calls came through last week, and more reports are expected before it’s over, he said.
“This one, he’s getting kind of brave,” Mitchell said. “DNR told us to tell everybody to keep their trash up, keep their dog food up, and in a couple weeks he’ll probably move on.”
In the meantime, Mitchell said he hopes Nelson residents will remember the truth in the timeless adage: “They’re more scared of us than we are of them.”
“I just hope nobody shoots him,” he said. “Call me and let me come out there before you do anything stupid.”
The DNR recommends residents keep garbage in airtight, washed containers and to clean up thoroughly after any outdoor cooking, Edwards said.
Residents should also be careful to only feed their pets outside during the daylight hours, she said, and should remove any uneaten food immediately.