MSU Professor Talks Bear Safety

MSU-Meridian students were certainly surprised to find a bear roaming around campus Monday. But this black bear wasn't after an Egg Bowl trophy. In fact, he was probably lured in by the scent of food and garbage.

"Yeah, he walked right down the hill right there, we have a greenhouse right over here, it walked around our greenhouse," he laughs. "It took a little dip in our pond out back."

Biology professor Dr. Jarrod Fogarty says bears don't often venture off into urban areas, but it's not unheard of.

"Most bears, especially adult bears, have a home range that they've established in the wilderness, and they stay as far away from humans as they can usually," he says.

He says this bear was reportedly about 150 pounds, which means he was still young and probably searching for a new territory away from his mother. The incident had many faculty and students frightened.

But most bears here in our area are just as scared of you as you are of it. Fogarty says the best thing you can do if you encounter a bear is to say something, clap, whistle, do anything to let the bear know that you are present. And his natural instinct will be to run away from you.

Fogarty says there has never been a documented attack by a black bear in Mississippi. And their wariness of people is something you don't want to lose. So don't provoke the bear, and don't do anything to keep it hanging around.

"Do not feed the bear, do not feed any bear," Dr. Fogarty says. "First, that will make bears expect food from you and from that area. And second, it will cause bears to lose their natural fear of humans."

And you definitely should not shoot the bear. It is a crime with hefty penalties.