There’s a large population of Black Bears here on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Black bears are primarily vegetarian and eat acorns, Black Gum berries, and agricultural grain crops. They don’t catch fish in rivers like Grizzly Bears, but they will eat dead fish if they find them on the creek or river banks. They’re not normally hunters but they’ll eat dead Deer or other small animals if they can find them. You’ll most likely see black bears feeding in the fields, or crossing the road to travel back to the forest.
Morning and evening hours are the best times to see bears. Alligator River has perhaps the largest black bear population of anywhere in the Southeast. The Refuge has been a bear sanctuary for almost 30 years, and the bear population has done well. Some of the large males are certainly within the 500 to 600 pound class, and we may have some males larger than that. In contrast, our adult female bears are smaller than female bears elsewhere in the Southeast, or in the nation, for that matter.
If you see Bears, the best rule is observe from your vehicle. NEVER, EVER try to approach or feed bears. Not only is feeding wildlife illegal, it is very hazardous to the health of the wildlife and very dangerous for you and other people. If you see a bear, most of the time it will run away from you. The exception may be a female Bear with Cubs. Like most mothers, she will defend those cubs. Bears have been seen climbing swamp tupelo trees, breaking off a branch loaded with berries, dropping it to the ground, and climbing down the tree to eat the berries. Eastern North Carolina Bears don’t really hibernate. They do rest during really cold days, but they can be seen year-round feeding on the variety of vegetation available here.