Black bear seen near Duke University this week

Jul. 24, 2013 @ 07:08 PM

Despite a black bear sighting near campus Monday, there's no need to hide your honey or picnic baskets.

At 3:23 a.m. Monday, a security officer with the Duke University Police Department noticed a black bear walking near the Erwin Road and Fulton Street intersection. The officer reported the bear walked into the Durham VA Medical Center parking lot, then crossed Erwin Road and entered the woods.

Jason Allen, wildlife biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said an occurrence like this is common this time of year. He said that if a black bear is spotted in a city like Durham, it's simply passing through and wants to get back to its natural wooded habitat as soon as possible.

"It's typically young, male bears that were kicked out of their home range by a mom or dominant male bear, and they're just looking for new territory to live without being harassed," Allen said. "They're looking for food or a place that will have plenty of food for them, but they definitely don't want to be in the city. They want a nice, quiet place to live."

While the black bear is the largest mammal in the state, it's also very shy and non-aggressive. The animal prefers large areas of uninhabited woodland with dense cover where it can live off a diet of plants and smaller animals.

If a bear is spotted, Allen said it's best to stay calm and never approach the animal. In case of a sighting, Duke community members should call Duke Police at (919) 684-2444.

"The best thing to do is stay away and leave the bear alone because they'll find their way out of the city and into woods," Allen said.

The black bear seen this week was spotted near Duke's Chiller Plant #2 Monday and reported near the Center for Living Tuesday.