Animals We Encounter

Black Bears In Georgia

image34

 

I have been hiking in Georgia for 32 years and have only seen the rear end of a bear once. In 2002, the US Forest Service stopped a poaching ring in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina which had claimed the lives of thousands of bears. Since then, the black bear populations have been steadily rising in Georgia and throughout the Southeast. In 2002, there were an estimated 2400 bears in Georgia and in 2018 there are 5100 by USFS estimates. Great news!

Yet, with more bears in the state, there is more chance for encounters between hikers and bears. To date, there are no human fatalities by bears recorded in GA and we hope to keep it that way.

The black bears in GA are more populated in the mountainous region of the state. Several times, I have seen special signs put up in the Cohutta Wilderness area confirming recent sightings of bears in the camping area. The key to avoid confrontations is to stow away your food in a tightly sealed package. The other method is the seal it, and hoist it over a branch of a tree well away from your campsite.

There is a also a healthy population of bears in Middle Georgia and also near the Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia.

Adult bears are generally up to six feet in length and about three feet high at the shoulder. Female adult bears can weigh up to 300 pounds and attain breeding status about 3.5-4.5 years of age. Adult males can weigh over 500 pounds and may breed as early as 1.5 years of age. Bears have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. They are good tree climbers, can swim well and are able to run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

The breeding season of the black bear is around July. Thus, the males can get a bit more aggressive during this time.

Confrontations with black bears are very rare. Most incidents are the direct result of people approaching the bear for photographs, surprising the bear or feeding the bear. The best advice I can give you is to never approach, feed or follow wild animals, especially bears.

Black Bear Paw Print

image35

Took this picture while in the mountains of a bear paw print.

Most Camouflaged Snake

image36

 

There are 6 species of venomous snakes that inhabit Georgia. Anyone who lives in or visits Georgia should make themselves aware of these snakes.

Children especially, whom snakes often fascinate, should be made aware of these 6 species. A lot of snakebites occur because people are uninformed about the venomous snakes that inhabit Georgia, and mistakenly think them harmless. The best rule of thumb is - if you don't know what kind of snake it is - leave it alone.

The snake in this picture is a Copperhead.  It blends really well in the leaf litter and fallen wood. I have encountered a few of these while hiking. They are more scared of you than you are of them, but they do not back down when threatened!


Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake

image37

I have heard the rattle and only saw the tail disappear down a hole. I did not stay to see it come back up. It will give you a warning noise if you get close. Look before stepping over logs.

image38

image39