ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - Several Jackson County neighbors are extra cautious of their surroundings these days after some unusual sightings in their neighborhoods. A big black bear has been spotted this week roaming around the St. Martin community. Those close encounters have some neighbors a bit nervous.
Imagine waking up and seeing a big black bear peering through your back porch. Nancy Bawcum snapped pictures of the big guy, roaming around her home on Old Fort Bayou Road in St. Martin Tuesday morning. She told WLOX News the bear was wearing a collar. It sniffed around the crawfish pot, then disappeared.
Minutes later, William Koenigs believes that same bear found its way onto his property just south of I-10.
"He either came underneath right here, where he did all that clawing," Koenigs said as he pointed to a huge hole under a back gate.
He also showed us some smaller holes in the ground that the bear probably dug up in search for food. It eventually found some sweet banana peppers.
"It was sitting right over here eating the plant, and that's when the dogs saw the bear," Koenigs said.
Koenigs said his dogs chased the bear up a pine tree.
"You'll see all the broken off bark. There's the claw marks when he went up the tree," Koenigs said.
As he pulled the dogs away, the bear quickly climbed down and took off.
"It was really kind of shocking, I mean, to see a bear that size, that close to the dogs," said Koenigs. "I got three grandkids living at the house, ages 2 to 5. I mean, if one of them was out, they're smaller than a black bear, so a bear wouldn't feel threatened by them."
Walter Murphy followed the bear tracks from Koenig's property to his land behind the Savannah Pines subdivision.
When asked how big the paws were, Murphy replied, "Bigger than my hands. I've seen bear tracks before up when I hunted a lot of 29, and this was an exceptionally big bear."
Wildlife officials say there are two known protected Louisiana Black Bears living in Jackson County.
"What we recommend is first and foremost, do not feed this bear. If he's hanging around, pull in your garbage, pull in your dog food, your cat food, your bird food, just for a couple of days. He's going to move on. He's looking for food. He's not a harm to anybody," said Jim Walker, a spokesman for the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks.
Still, some neighbors said they will feel safer once the wild animal is relocated away from their homes.
"They shouldn't allow them on people's private property. I mean, that's where these are roaming," said Koenigs.
"Bears are not seen every day. They're a celebrity. People get excited. So if you see him, consider yourself lucky. Leave him alone. Don't feed him and he'll go away," said Walker.
Walker said bears tend to live in densely wooded areas like 16th section land and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge. If you do encounter a bear, report it to state wildlife officials by calling 1-800-BE-SMART.
Remember, Louisiana Black Bears are endangered. Harassing, harming or killing them can result in jail time and fines.