More homeowners having close encounters with wildlife. Here’s what to do if you have one

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — George Budu loves his muscadines. Trouble is, he’s not the only one.

Nobody in Budu’s Gwinnett County neighborhood will forget the day a big black bear strolled out of the woods, took a seat, and had his fill.

“I’m not playing with this,” Budu told Channel 2′s Berndt Peterson. “No matter how big am I or how small, I’m not playing with the wildlife. Period.”

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Metro area homeowners say they’re crossing paths with wildlife, especially bears, coyotes and foxes, much more often.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said there’s way more evidence of these wild animal encounters because everybody has a smart phone or a video doorbell, so the critters are caught on camera.

While many residents believe there are more bears, coyotes and foxes roaming around metro Atlanta neighborhoods, Georgia wildlife experts say those animal populations are actually holding steady.

“All wildlife can be dangerous,” said Georgia DNR urban wildlife manager Kaitlin Goode. “But what we want people to think about is why the wildlife is in your neighborhood.”

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Goode said it’s almost always for food including what’s in your trash or bird feeder. But coyotes will sometimes attack small dogs or the house cat.

Peterson has reported on some metro wildlife encounters that may have been too up close and personal.

One woman had to get rabies shots after she was bit in the calf by a fox. In Gwinnett County, a wild deer got nose-to-nose with a kindergartener waiting on the school bus.

“It was huge,” said Kara Louis, the child’s mother. “It didn’t look that big when they’re far away, but when they come close to you they’re about the size of a small horse or a Great Dane. They’re big.”

Goode said while these close encounters rarely lead to trouble, the more time any wild animal spends in a neighborhood the bolder they become.

“We want wildlife to be fearful of people,” Goode said, adding that people need to be scary when they encounter wildlife.

“Banging pots and pans, yelling, air horns, pretty much using your car alarm if they’re in the front yard.”

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Up in Rabun County, Kerry Watts tried to scare off a black bear with a car horn. The bear crawled through an open window in her minivan --- and ate her lunch.

“I even took pots and pans and banged them from inside the house, trying to make noise to scare him but he just looked at me and stayed in there,” Watts said.

The bear that gobbled up Budu’s grapes wasn’t about to budge either.

“With the wildlife, it’s not something you can play. You never know. You can’t predict what is going be their reaction the next minute,” Budu said. “That’s the reason I say, ‘OK — he wants the grapes. Let him have it.’”

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