Recently there have been bear sightings in the news around our area. Surprising to some, Cornelius has had bear sightings in the past and likely will again. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) recently notified Cornelius PD that bear sightings are possible in our area due to the proximity of the lake. Bears travel up or down river to find food sources during the spring, and developed areas are no exception. Summarizing the NCWRC bulletin, here are some common myths:
1. The Wildlife Resources Commission will not allow the CPD or any local agency to trap, tranquilize or shoot a bear even if it is in a populated neighborhood unless there is an imminent threat to human life. These threats are defined as charging, closely following, or actively attacking a person. Being in a neighborhood, even a neighborhood with children present, is not a justification for action. The NCWRC points out there has never been an attack by a bear in North Carolina that would warrant such action.
2. State law prevents even NCWRC officers from carrying tranquilizers for bears, and in any event it would be highly dangerous to use them in populated areas because it could take 30 minutes to take effect and during that period the bear would become highly agitated.
3. Property owners are allowed to shoot a bear that is destroying property, but only with a permit in advance. Hunters of course can shoot bears but only in season and when properly licensed, however Mecklenburg County does not have an authorized bear season.
So what can we do about bears?
The NCWRC says a visit by a bear must run its course, and eventually the bear will leave the area. During this time, it is imperative that food sources be removed and people must stay away from the bear. The only resource the NCWRC has in these situations is to destroy the bear, so approaching the bear could lead to its destruction. The Cornelius Police Department will respond to help keep the public away from the bear, but neither our officers nor our animal control personnel can take any action toward the bear unless there is an immediate threat to human life.
CPD wants to stress that there have been no reports of bear sightings in town to date, but because there have been sightings in Rowan and Union Counties, and because bear sightings have happened in Cornelius in the past, we wanted to get some information out in advance.