PATTERSON,LA (NBC33) — People living in Patterson are fed up with black bears destroying their neighborhoods. Residents told experts Louisiana black bears are a big nuisance. They are worried the bears could end up hurting someone.
Judy Roi, Patterson resident, stated, "We should not have to have this fear man this is America. We shouldn't have this. We don't live in a zoo here."
Monday March 25, the mayor of Patterson hosted a community meeting to put bear experts for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries together with concerned residents. People living in Patterson aren't afraid to say their city has a bear problem.
"I heard the noise. I opened the door and I was like two feet away from this bear looking me eye to eye," Stephen Howard, a Patterson resident, described his own encounter with a bear on his porch.
The parish added “bear proof” trashcans to try and fix the problem. Experts and residents agree the trashcans aren’t working.
"If it was a garbage can that was the only problem,” Roi said. “I think that could be solved, but I don't think it's that. I don’t think they are endangered either. Not with the quantity we are seeing."
Residents are scared the bears could end up hurting kids.
"What situation if they have a cub they come out of the woods and the kids are there. They may think the small bear is cuddly and go to grab it and the mother could attack a child," Howard said.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries experts told the community at a city meeting the bears are not normally aggressive. They asked residents not to approach the endangered species. Experts suggested residents purchase their own protective bear spray.
It is illegal to hurt or hunt the bears because they are endangered species.
Residents asked experts if there was a way to get the bears off the endangered species list. Maria Davidson, with LWDF, explained the state is currently researching just how big the black bear population is along the coast. She explained if the bears did get removed from the list hunting the bears would not solve the problem of bears coming into neighborhoods.
Davidson explained the bears normally eat through out the year to stock up on food before they go into “dens” during the winter. She went on to say bears in the Patterson area didn’t get fat enough to go into dens, and therefore continue to hunt for food. The bears are just hungry, and they're looking for food in the neighborhoods. They say if people put out trash properly and use the bear proof trashcans they'd see less bears by their homes.
"People dump food and stuff in their trashcans and if it's not locked down the bears will get in the cans," Howard explained.
Meeting goers say the experts need to do more to keep families safe.
"They don't know anymore than what we know, other than they study the animal,” Roi exclaimed. “But again it is an animal. You have no way of knowing they have no way of knowing what that animal is capable of. "
The community left the meeting with a lot of unanswered questions.
"Not enough. Not enough. Some hope a little bit of hope not enough answers. "
Davidson and the city plan on forming a citizens group to help monitor the bear problem, and give ideas to experts on how to stop the bears.
If you are experiencing a problem with your bear proof trash can contact the St. Mary Parish Black Bear Conflict Office at 336-828-4100 ext. 371 or at 337-350-0608.
Experts reminded residents it is against state law to intentionally feed a black bear in Louisiana.