GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - The Queen City isn't known for a wide variety of wildlife. Deer, fox and rabbits are common, but in 2017, one of the biggest animals to make its home on the east coast is the black bear.
"We got a bear on Black Snake (Road)," exclaimed Sydney Szymanski, a Stanley resident who came face-to-face with a bear last week when she went out for a run.
"It could have seen me running and started running after me," said the Gaston College student. "There's no telling what it could have done!"
Sydney ran home instead of logging a couple of miles. Then, she and her mom Debbie hopped in the car and drove back to the area to check out the bear.
"It's not something you see around here," Sydney told NBC Charlotte.
Turns out another bear, noticeably bigger, was seen in Alexis, just miles away from the black bear spotted by Sydney and her mother.
"It could be in our backyard one day. You never know," Sydney said.
These sightings have become more common in the Charlotte area. In the last four months, bear sightings have been reported in Waxhaw, Mint Hill, Mount Holly, Hickory, Denver and now Stanley.
"The bear population is rising in Gaston County," said Danny Ray, biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Ray said the bears could be moving to the eastern part of the state where there's a large black bear population, or they could be setting up shop in the Piedmont.
Authorities in Gaston County said they haven't received any nuisance reports about the two bears spotted. If you come across one, stay safe and keep your distance.
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