New Bern’s Mascot – The Black Bear

Bear Print

I used to be and sometimes am when sitting around the campfire reading “bear attack” stories with my sister. Come turkey season, this is an annual expedition for my sister and me. My 2nd eldest sister, I’ll call her Darlene, comes to New Bern from Grand Island, NY, for turkey hunting season and we pitch a tent in The Croatan National Forest. I probably shouldn’t even call myself a turkey hunter because I’ve been at it since Darlene introduced me to turkey hunting in 2002 and I have yet to shoot a turkey. I’ve chalked it up to the fact that they’re smarter than me, but still have a great time getting back to nature for a week.

You may ask, what does this have to do with Black Bears, New Bern’s Mascot? Well, we grew up camping in Allegany State Park in the Southern Tier of NY State. There, Yogi and Boo Boo are alive and well. They’ve been conditioned by humans to raid the dumpsters and even flop out in your campsite waiting for leftovers. It’s not rare to see a black bear and they aren’t afraid of you because people have fed them since the 1960s. They aren’t hunted, as they are in New Bern so they have no fear of humans.

Things are very different here. Three years ago, we pitched a tent in the woods in the Brices Creek Wildlife Management Area and woke up next to a very large pile of bear droppings. At that moment, I realized that the Eastern Carolina Black Bear is not going to “get us”. The poor bear is more afraid of us than some of us are of them.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this? Well, I frequently visit the Croatan and the only people I see are hunters, fishermen, or a lone jogger. I don’t see families or people hiking on the designated trails and wonder if there’s something that I don’t know about this great forest that locals residents do. Which makes me think, people, (besides hunters packing weapons) are afraid of something that I don’t know about? If so, please enlighten me because I don’t want that “something” coming after me.

Even if that’s not the reason, maybe people haven’t thought about venturing into this beautiful forest. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s understandable. I suppose I’m concerned that the “computer age” has overpowered the younger generation and people are missing out on the opportunity to observe wildlife and exotic plants that you can only find in the Croatan.

When you’re looking for something to do in your spare time, spray yourself and/or your kids with insect repellant (with at least 75% DEET), bring your camera, and venture out into this great forest. You may be very surprised how the sounds and sights of the forest will consume your thoughts instead of the nagging stressors that affect your everyday life.

If you’re afraid that the Black Bear or other animals will bother you, don’t be. I’ve spent over 100 days (cumulative) in the Croatan since 2005 and the only thing that attacked me was ticks. Now that’s another story on its own. As long as you wear light colored clothes (to spot the tick and flick it off), keep an eye out for snakes (although they will slither away at the sound of your footsteps), and either bring a compass or GPS with you (or tell someone where you will be hiking), you’re bound to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature and forget about the current economic situation!

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Wendy Card

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