A wandering black bear with a taste for food outside the traditional North Georgia Mountains stomping grounds has been spotted around Johns Creek for several weeks now, according to police.
It’s unclear how many sightings have been reported, but a social media post earlier this month by Johns Creek Police alerting the community to the animal’s presence began a comment thread that included some who claimed to have caught a glimpse of “John the Johns Creek Bear” — a name dubbed by police in the post.
In a subsequent comment, Johns Creek Police said one of the sightings included an area of Morton Road near State Bridge Road. They also said the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was aware of the animal.
Melissa Cummings, communications and outreach specialist with the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia DNR, said that, judging by videos she’d seen of the animal, it appeared to be a young bear and estimated it to be about 150 pounds.
Cummings said that during spring and summer, bears often travel outside of their more traditional range in order to search for food.
“This sometimes brings them into areas that would be considered more suburban/urban,” Cummings said. “If they can find a food source (garbage, pet food, bird seed, etc.) they will stay. Additionally, we sometimes see young, male bears that have been ‘pushed out’ by the mother bear, and in an effort to find new territory, they sometimes travel to avoid areas where larger male bears might be found.”
She added that “in today’s world” of cellphone and doorbell cameras, DNR hears a lot more about these kinds of sightings. “So, it is not necessarily that there are more bears, but we see evidence of wildlife more often because we are able to see it and share this kind of news more easily.”
She said Johns Creek residents and beyond should ensure their yards aren’t “attractive” to bears by removing bird feeders, not leaving garbage out and not leaving pet food outdoors.
“When bears don’t find food,” she said, “they will continue to move away from your home, your neighborhood, etc. If you actually see one in your yard, as long as you have no food source, the bear will eventually leave.”
She said it’s also a good idea to keep pets inside. Visit www.bearwise.org for more information about what to do if you encounter a bear.