JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A family in north Jackson County avoided a grizzly situation this week when they spotted a black bear just outside the fence in their back yard.
Though their bear experience ended as quickly as it began, it's brought up a discussion in the community on bear safety and other bear sightings.
The Hopson family has lived at their home on Jim Ramsey Road near the Vancleave-Latimer line for the last 16 years and have never seen anything like it before.
But, according to the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, bear sightings are actually very common in three areas of the state: the Mississippi River Delta, Loess Bluffs area, and the Gulf Coast.
When she first saw the bear on Wednesday, Beanita Hopson says it was an unbelievable sight and one she knew had to be seen to be believed.
"I was washing dishes and said, 'Oh my god. Come outside, there's a bear. There's a bear,''" said Hopson. "I kind of thought to myself, 'There's not a bear. It's not a bear.'"
Without wasting any time, she grabbed her camera and began snapping photos of the big black bear while it walked behind her family's chain link fence.
"He just kind of walked the tree line and when it got a little too close, he ran back here behind the shed," said Hopson.
Hopson's father said the bear was only here for about five minutes, but it was just long enough for the bear to sniff around. He thinks the bear was attracted to his garden and ripe blueberry bushes.
Luckily, the bear ran away and hasn't been seen since, but wildlife officials said they expect to hear of more sightings like this one.
"There's actually three things going on with the black bears right now," said Lt. Barry Delcambre of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks. "First thing is they are coming out from denning. The second thing is the male bears are looking for mates. And the third thing is the female bears are actually kicking and rejecting the year-old bears away from them. So they are starting to roam, looking for their territory."
Delcambre said he believes the same bear Hopson encountered is the same one that eats the clover on his property every year. He warns people that if you see a bear, keep a safe distance and try preventative measures.
Some other tips to "bear" in mind, according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks:
- Enjoy the bear from a distance
- Loud noises can often scare a bear
- Don't chase the bear or allow pets to do so
- Do not feed the bear.
- Keep garbage cans in the garage.
- Pet food should not be left out overnight
If you spot a bear, call your local law enforcement. Remember black bears are endangered so killing one is illegal.