MARSHVILLE, N.C. -- Officer J.C. Navarro could not resist grabbing his cell phone to capture on camera the much talked about black bear that had been spotted numerous times throughout the state this week.
“I just wanted to see him, 'cause we received so many calls the night before too,” he said.
Navarro arrived at Old Highway 74 and Helms Efird Road to find the bear roaming close to a house and walking at a slow pace. He said the bear looked tired from his long journey.
“I actually backed up and went up on the driveway. I came around the house hoping that if I walk around the other side of the house, I could snatch a picture of him from behind," said Navarro. "When I came around the house, he was actually turning around and towards me.”
That’s when Navarro said he put the camera down and got back into his car.
He captured two clips during his brief encounter -- one which shows the bear running towards the officers at the scene.
"You would think the bear would go the other way. He actually came through where all of the police cars and ran right through the police cars between,” he said.
Rupert Medford with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said while no one can predict where the bear will choose to settle, it does look as if he is heading back east towards the mountains or coast.
"Bears will go great distances in a very short amount of time, and then they may move that same distance over the next month or within days, so they kind of choose their own pace,” said Medford. "What they are doing is looking for a new home range, generally one not occupied by males. They will generally stop when they find a suitable place -- female bears and adequate food resources and where no other males that are dominate over them.”
Medford believes the bear seen in Union County is the same bear that was first spotted in Biscoe 10 days ago. He said that bear likely made the 30-40 mile trek west, and was the same black bear spotted in Stanley and Cabarrus Counties over the weekend.
On Monday, local authorities got calls of a bear sighting near the New Salem area. By Tuesday morning, the bear had walked more than 10 miles to Marshville.
“There is no reason to believe it is a dangerous animal,” said Medford. “In fact, this bear has been very visible, yet aloof and folks have been able to see him and take pictures, and that's great. But we don't want folks to get close to him and we just want to let him do his thing and hopefully he will find a habitat and settle there.”
Medford said the reason experts like himself refer to the bear as male is because females do not typically disperse out of their home ranges. Male bears, usually during their second and third year, begin venturing out to look for a new habitat.
He said the pictures he has seen so far corroborate that this is a male bear between that age.
Video credit JC Navarro: