By Rubina Madan
LOGANVILLE - When she went to her bedroom to turn off her TV, Loganville resident Elaine Gray saw something startling: a 250-pound shape sitting and eating outside her house. It was 12:30 a.m. on Sunday - too dark to tell immediately that it was a young black bear.
The hungry animal started walking back and forth between her hanging bird feeders, snacking on their contents.
"He sat out there until he had eaten everything he could at my home. And then he went next door to my neighbor's house," Gray said.
She got on the phone and called her neighbors across the street, asking them to look outside and make sure she wasn't imagining things. Gray had never seen a bear before, let alone had one a few feet from her home, munching on her bird feed.
It was particularly scary because her husband and her 15-year-old son were both gone for the night. Her only company was her Jack Russell terrier, Eddie. And he wasn't much help. She was worried about him because she had just taken him outside.
Gray watched the bear for about 15 minutes, as it left her property and went to a nearby home looking for more food. It put its front paws on the lamp post, possibly because it was hoping it was another bird feeder. When it found no more food, the bear left.
"I was curious, but I was also scared because I wasn't sure where it was going to go," Gray said.
The sighting occurred on the Richmond Place residential loop in Loganville. Gray's house faces in the direction of the Alcovy River, which flows through Walton, Newton and Gwinnett counties.
The neighborhood is located in a wooded area. Her neighbor, Wendy Beuglas, had seen deer, rabbits and foxes in the area, but never a bear.
Beuglas e-mailed local residents to let them know about the bear sighting. But she wasn't too worried about it coming back. She did tell her 6-year-old daughter to be careful when she played outside, and she has been keeping a close watch over her.
"I told her, 'I'm not trying to scare you or anything, honey, but if you see anything, you have to get back inside the house,'" Beuglas said.
The bear was 5'7" or 5'8", and between 250 and 300 pounds, Gray said. Though it wasn't fully grown, it was not a baby bear, either. It seemed to be pretty much on his own, with no mother bear in sight.
A few hours later, there was another sighting, likely of the same black bear, about a mile away on Ozora Road. No other bear sightings were reported after Sunday in the early morning.
People who spot bears should also keep their distance, said Don McGowan, a biologist with the state department of Wildlife Resources.
"All wildlife deserves respect," McGowan said. "Certainly if you see a bear, or any other wild animal, you should give it room and not try to approach it. Usually the black bears will run from the person, as long as you just give it plenty of space."
McGowan said he suspected it was a male black bear that residents spotted. Males tend to stay solitary except for when they breed in the summer.
Residents of areas with bear sightings should be careful not to leave children and small pets unattended outside. They should also avoid outdoor grilling, take down bird feeders and keep garbage cans indoors.