Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Where’s the black bear now?
No one is sure.
He was last seen in a patch of woods near the intersection of Lincolnton and Mooresville roads Sunday night.
No additional sightings were reported Monday, which could mean he’s already left the county ó or he found a really good meal, stuffed himself and embarked on a long nap.
More reports surfaced Monday of the bear’s march across Rowan County. His jaunt apparently started sometime Friday.
The bear was first spotted near Wright Road in Enochville.
By Saturday, someone saw the creature in the Saw Road area and then, later, on Millbridge Road.
Butch Rumple, who owns and operates Atwell One Stop, hasn’t seen anybody who actually saw the bear.
But Rumple said there is a lot of buzz in the community.
With the sightings spread over several miles, Rumple said the bear must have been moving awfully fast. “I watch the Discovery Channel, they show bears going full blast at 30 to 35 mph. That is moving on.”
The bear apparently did just that.
At least one report said the bear was being chased by dogs and appeared headed toward Patterson Farms.
But the bear apparently did a quick turnaround, missing the strawberry fields and headed for an afternoon on the golf course.
Later Saturday, the bear was spotted edging around Warrior Golf Club in the Fisher Farms subdivision.
“I never saw it,” said Rick Houston, manager of the club.
“We were pretty busy Saturday, thank goodness it didn’t come over.”
After dancing around the golf course, he headed north toward Salisbury.
About 9 a.m. Sunday, he popped up in the back yard of Chris Verner, editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post.
Verner was sitting on the porch of his home in Homestead Hills off N.C. 150. Between sips of coffee, he saw something that looked like a large black hump over the edge of his deck.
“I thought it must be like a black lab on steroids but it was too big to be a dog,” Verner said. “I walked to the door and it stood up. I could see the whole thing.”
For a few seconds, he thought he was hallucinating.
No, it wasn’t the coffee. It was a black bear.
And it was standing 15 feet from Verner.
Did the veteran newsman grab his digital camera that was only a short distance away? “I was too stunned to do anything,” he said.
Verner watched as it stood up and sniffed a bird house. No food there.
It ambled across the yard and sniffed a bird feeder. It was empty.
With no snack in sight, the bear moseyed off toward a neighbor’s yard.
Verner called his neighbor to advise bear might be coming by. She never saw it.
He called the N.C. Wildlife Commission and waited patiently for the recorded options. “I kept waiting for the number for reporting bear sightings. I didn’t have one.”
A woman advised him that there was no need to report bear sightings.
No big deal.
He didn’t call the paper.
Only after reading Monday’s edition of the Post where the sightings were mentioned did Verner share his story.
He recalls having only one other wildlife sighting of equal size.
“I ran into Junior Samples one time in Macon, Ga. I was a sportswriter I was interviewing a high school coach. Junior walked in to go deer hunting with the coach.”
Verner recalled that the legendary star of “Hee Haw” was about the same size as the bear.
Later Sunday, the bear made his way to apartment complexes and businesses along Jake Alexander Boulevard.