Bear trapping debate stirs upscale Jasper community

Big bears in a small mountain town are at the center of a big debate in north Georgia.

This week a Big Canoe resident anonymously sent FOX 5 a photo of a mama bear and her three cubs and said she's concerned the animals will be euthanized. She said bear traps like the one in the photo were set near the pool of the Big Canoe community after the bears made their way to the pool Sunday to dine on food left on tables and benches.

Carolyn Witt also lives in Big Canoe and believes too many residents are failing to follow the rules specifically outlined for bear interactions.

"You can't leave food on the grill or outside and you can't leave your garbage out where it's accessible and you can't approach them and you certainly can't feed them," said Witt, a seven year resident of the small Mountain Community in Jasper, Georgia.

The general manager of Big Canoe issued a statement saying, in part, "This bear family in Big Canoe has become extremely habituated to humans and food conditioned. A black bear is no longer acting like a wild animal when she will bring her three cubs into an area populated with a few hundred people. Our number one concern is now and always will be, the safety of the Big Canoe Property Owners and guests."

A spokesman for the DNR told FOX 5 bears have been euthanized in the past, but said no decision has been made about the fate of the mother near and her cubs. He said they will determine how to treat the bears, if they're even trapped, based on their behavior.

"Whatever they do, I need to make sure that they are going to protect the wildlife and protect the citizens. If people just followed the rules and respect their habitat, the bears would respect ours," said Witt, who's grown accustom to save the bears on her deck and in her backyard at Big Canoe.