ST. PAULS — A black bear was found dead Thursday off Interstate 95, near Exit 36, but it’s unclear what killed it — and unknown if it is the same bear spotted earlier this week by two Lumberton police officers in the Highland community.
Jodi Owens, spokesperson for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said the male bear, which weighed between 300 and 350 pounds, was found beside the interstate. A wildlife biologist pulled a tooth from the animal that should reveal information about the animal.
Chuck Miller, district engineer for Robeson County, confirmed that Department of Transportation employees removed the bear but he did not have any information on the cause of death or when it died. Facebook posts claiming it weighed 456 pounds circulated, showing the animal in the back of a truck, and no obvious injuries were visible.
According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website, because of the adaptable nature of bears and improved management by wildlife agencies, black bear populations are increasing and bear range is expanding in North Carolina. Black bears, which can weigh as much as 800 pounds, are abundant in Eastern North Carolina.
Wildlife officials warn against feeding bears that are increasingly found in residential areas because of loss of habitat.
The commission’s website says: “Feeding bears rewards them for coming into residential areas. Bears feeding on unnatural food sources around your home may lose their fear of humans and will be more likely to approach people — a situation that rarely ends well for the bear and could have potential safety issues for humans as well.”
Two Lumberton police officers on Sunday reported seeing a bear in the Highland area near Kahn Drive. But the animal they saw was reported to be a “cub.” The area where the dead bear was found is about 15 miles from Lumberton.