Black bear in Heflin

A bear wandered into Heflin in 2015 and was nearly shot on Tumblin Mill Road.

SYLACAUGA -- The Sylacauga Police Department is warning residents to be on the lookout for black bears.

The Police Department has started answering calls in reference to bear sightings inside the city, said police Chief Kelley Johnson. The department issued an announcement warning the public about bears on its Facebook page.

In recent years, the area has seen an increase in black bear sightings. No one has been attacked or hurt by the animals.

According to information on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, in late spring and the early summer months, there is an increased number of bear sightings.

This time of year, bears begin to travel in search of mates or to find a new home after leaving their mother. More often, these bears are just passing through and are not likely to stick around or be seen again.

However, some bears may stay in an area longer if they have found an easy food source, becoming more of a nuisance, a story on the website about black bears on the move said.

Bears are are scavengers and will eat whatever is readily available. A bear’s natural diet consists of berries, acorns and plant and animal material, but bears can’t resist the taste of household waste.

If a bear finds easily accessible garbage, pet food or bird/deer feeders, they are more likely to continue to visit that area for easy food, the website said.

The SPD has a flier issued by the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries giving tips on what to do if you encounter a bear.

If a bear is sighted in your area, remain calm, these animals are native to the state and are generally shy creatures. However, keep well away from the bear, don’t approach it and give it space to leave the area. Inform others about the bear. Report any bear sighting online at https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear.

If a bear becomes a nuisance, contact your local Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District Office for assistance and report the issue.

To reduce the chances of a bear becoming a nuisance, you can purchase bear proof trash cans or move trash cans to an indoor secure storage building or garage. Take bird, deer or outdoor pet feeders down for at least two to three weeks.

These steps will remove easy food sources, and once a bear realizes food is no longer available, they will normally move to another location.