CHERRYVILLE, N.C. (WJZY) – File it away as something you don’t expect to see. Don and Grace Burkey left their house late last Saturday night to pick up a sandwich.
They pulled into the Walmart parking lot to have a bite around 1:30 a.m. Sunday and that’s when they spotted the bear.
“Holy cow, it’s a bear,” Don Burkey recalled saying after his wife pointed out the bear.
“It was a funny and odd thing. We see wildlife being out in the country and we might see some livestock but definitely not a bear,” Burkey said. Apparently, the bear shared the same idea with the couple. He also wanted a snack.
The couple stayed in their car and kept their distance but snapped a few pictures. Don says his wife called 911 to alert authorities about the bear.
“If you were further up the mountains this wouldn’t be that big of a deal but in Gaston County seeing a bear run across the parking lot is something people don’t see every day,” explained Danny Ray, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission.
Ray says this time of the year bears are after food — and a lot of it.
“They are getting this excruciating appetite. They can’t fill themselves up and they eat, and eat and eat and their bodies are getting ready for winter hibernation,” Ray explained.
“He wasn’t intimidating and he didn’t seem like he wanted any confrontation,” Burkey said.
Each year, Ray says the commission receives about half a dozen reports of similar sightings around the area. While it is not common, it can happen. Bears typically use Gaston County to run up and down the Catawba River from the mountains to South Carolina.
If you do happen to see a bear in the wild, Ray says to enjoy the siting but keep your distance. Let the bear know you are there and slowly walk away. Burkey says it’s a memory he won’t forget.
“It was definitely one of the better ones for this year,” Burkey laughingly said by phone.