MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - Bear sightings in South Mississippi are not that uncommon, according to Mississippi Department of Wildlife & Fisheries officials.
On Thursday evening, a black bear was spotted in the 100 block of Ralston Road in south Forrest County.
"They are like a big raccoons, they are lazy and looking for an easy meal this time of year," Mississippi Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Biologist Richard Runnels said.
Residents in the area contacted the Forrest County Sheriff's Department who went to the area, but were unable to spot the bear.
"If you see a bear, there is something there that is attracting them, if its garbage, pet food, horse or chicken feed, everybody feeds cats and dogs on the back porch, so it's not really uncommon," Runnels said. "Best piece of advice is to secure any type of food like that."
The bear population is on the increase in South Mississippi, according to Runnels.
"We know we have a few bears from Hattiesburg down south toward the coast, and maybe a few just north of Hattiesburg, there is a population down there," Runnels said. "They are more scared of humans than we are scared of them, they shouldn't be an issue, but just looking for an easy meal this time of year."
The black bear is listed as an endangered species, according to Runnels, and protected in the state.
"Whatever you do, do not shoot the bear, don't panic, blow your horn and it should run off," Runnels said. "Typically we won't even send an officer out unless the bear is in a place where it can't get out, or harm could be done."
Runnels said there have been multiple sightings this year already in the state.
"Most of the times the bears see people and they are gone before you even see the bear," Runnels said.
You can contact the Mississippi Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Offices if you do spot a black bear.