Bear spotted on U.S. 29
by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
A young bear may have taken up residence — at least temporarily — in Coweta County, just north of the Madras community.
Truck driver Al Epperson said he almost hit the bear as it tried to cross U.S. 29 Tuesday.
Epperson, who makes a daily drive from Atlanta to Franklin, was on his way back from Franklin around 8 p.m. Tuesday when he saw the bear along U.S. 29 just south of Groover Road.
“I know a bear when I see one, and it was definitely a bear. I only missed it by a foot,” Epperson said.
The animal was hanging out on the left side of the road.
As Epperson approached the bear, he thought it was either “a big hairy pony” or a large dog. Maybe.
But as his tractor-trailer got closer, the animal started to amble across the road. And then, according to Epperson, there was no mistaking it was a black bear. Epperson was afraid he was going to hit it. No one was coming in the other direction. “I started to lock my brakes and swerve,” Epperson said. Then the bear sped up and made it across the road. “He took off and just started running,” Epperson said.
The bear looked “really healthy and fat,” Epperson said. He had a shiny coat. “I could see the brown of his muzzle,” he said. “Just in a split second… that’s something you don’t’ forget.”
“It was a pretty interesting, different experience,” he said. “It kind of shook me up a little bit. It got my adrenaline pumping.”
Epperson estimates the bear was in the 200- to 250-pound range. It looked like a juvenile bear, he said.
“It really freaked me out to see a bear this far south,” Epperson said. “You expect to see one, maybe in Marietta or Cherokee County, but this was the last thing I expected.”
Having a bear move through Coweta County might not be as unusual as people think, according to Keith Waddell, Georgia Department of Natural Resources conservation ranger for Coweta and Meriwether counties.
Black bears live both in the north Georgia mountains and in middle Georgia. “We’re in between two of their areas,” Waddell said.
“This time of year, you’ve got those young males being put out of the territory by adult males,” Waddell said. So the youngsters have to start looking for their own territory. “They’re just getting to another populated bear area,” Waddell said. “They don’t normally live here, but you can have them coming through.”
A bear was spotted near Palmetto in 1998, and there have been other bear sightings in the Coweta area.
More common have been alligator sightings. In 2009, a 6-foot alligator was found sunning himself on the side of Interstate 85 near Exit 51. In the spring of 2011, an alligator took up residence in a pond near Senoia.
And just last Saturday, two alligators were spotted near the boat ramp at the riverside park in Franklin.
Last year, Waddell said he received a call one night from someone claiming there was a bear in the parking lot of the Newnan Starbucks on Bullsboro Drive near I-85.