By Steve Huffman
Judy Wertz, a resident of Colonial Drive, was headed home Monday night when she spotted what she thought was a canine crossing the road.
“I said, ‘Oh, gosh, somebody’s dog’s loose,’ ” Wertz recalled.
But when her car’s headlights shone on the dog, she realized it wasn’t a dog at all.
It was a bear. A black one. And a relatively good-sized one.
Wertz watched as the creature rambled across the lawn of Milford Hills Baptist Church, then disappeared into the woods that border the property of the Hefner VA Medical Center.
The bear is apparently the same one that has been spotted on several occasions around Rowan County in recent days. Wildlife officers say black bears are relatively harmless and should be left alone.
Wertz said she doesn’t want to do anything but leave the bear alone. Her only concern, she said, is that the bear show her the same courtesy.
“I’m being very careful when I go outside,” Wertz said Tuesday morning. “I don’t want any surprises.”
Asked if the bear she saw was a big one, Wertz replied, “Big enough for me. It didn’t have to be a grizzly to scare me.”
The site where Wertz spotted Boo-Boo the Bear is a mile or so from the creature’s last reported sighting.
Colonial Drive intersects busy Statesville Boulevard in one of Salisbury’s more heavily populated residential areas. It’s only a good hop and a skip from Catawba College, where Boo-Boo’s sighting would certainly create a stir among the coeds.
Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said that prior to Wertz’s report of her Close Encounter of the Bear Kind, the last call his department had concerning the creature was when someone reported seeing it near the Food Lion warehouse off Jake Alexander Boulevard about 7:15 p.m. Monday.
Asked if he was surprised that the bear managed to cross five-lane Jake Alexander, Wilhelm said no more so than he was surprised at the fact the bear has escaped harm as long as it has.
He noted that wildlife biologists believe Boo-Boo is the same bear that was spotted near Huntersville last week. The bear has put quite a few miles under his paws in the days since, Wilhelm noted.
“They’re tracking him across the state,” Wilhelm said of wildlife biologists. “They’re asking people to just leave him alone.”
Wilhelm said that even if a bear has nine lives like his feline counterparts, Boo-Boo might be tempting fate.
Wilhelm said the bear just missed getting hit by an SUV on Mooresville Road Sunday evening. How many more times Boo-Boo is fortunate enough to safely cross Jake Alexander or other busy streets is anyone’s guess, Wilhelm said.
Phyliss Cornelison is the administration secretary at Dan Nicholas Park and accustomed to seeing the caged bears there.
But Cornelison isn’t used to seeing a wild bear cross Jake Alexander Boulevard, which is exactly what she saw about 7:20 p.m. Monday.
Cornelison said she and her husband had left Salisbury Mall and were heading east on Jake Alexander. They were near Woodleaf Lanes, Cornelison said, when the bear ran in front of their car, narrowly missing being hit by several vehicles as it crossed Jake Alexander.
She said the bear didn’t look in either direction and didn’t slow as he entered the roadway.
“He’s a little bigger than the cubs in the park,” Cornelison said.
She said the bear passed about 20 feet in front of the car in which she was riding.
“If it’d been a few more seconds, we’d probably be stuffing him,” Cornelison said.
Sgt. Anthony Sharum of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission was asked if the bear might find the wooded area between Colonial Drive and the VA Medical Center to his liking and decide to take up permanent residence there.
After all, several Salisbury residents noted, the area is relatively damp and wooded, just the kind of place Boo-Boo might want to call home and raise a bunch of little bears.
But Sharum said that isn’t going to happen. He noted that although there might be several acres of woods there, it’s not nearly enough for a bear to exist.
Not enough for the bear necessities, you might say.
“He’s not going to stay there long,” Sharum said. “He needs a bigger roaming area.”
And Sharum said the fact that Boo-Boo will likely be on the move again soon is a good thing.
“Hopefully, he’ll get a way on out of the city,” Sharum said.
He said wildlife officers aren’t planning to try to trap or tranquilize the bear, hoping instead that the creature finds its own way to a more natural habitat.
Sharum said that in the right place, the bear wouldn’t have trouble finding plenty of buddies.
“We’ve got a good bear population in the state,” Sharum said.
But when a wayward member of that population decides to mosey in amongst humans ó as Boo-Boo has done ó it’s inevitably going to create a stir.
“In these areas where bears are not usually seen, people get all excited when they spot one,” Sharum said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Steve Huffman