A Wetumpka man is facing criminal charges after allegedly killing a black bear in Elmore County.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) said 32-year-old Michael Watkins is charged with a misdemeanor after killing the bear.

Watkins could be fined up to $2,000 and lose his rights to a three-year hunting and fishing license. Jail time is also a possibility.

“Hopefully this arrest will send a message and deter future wildlife regulation violations related to Alabama’s black bear population,” said Matt Weathers, chief of enforcement with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division of the ADCNR. “If you see a black bear, just leave it alone. We want them in Alabama.”

Black bears are protected in Alabama due to low population.

“Historically, a small population of black bear has remained rooted in southwest Alabama, primarily in Mobile and Washington counties,” the ADCNR said in a press release. “In recent years, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population in northeast Alabama. ADCNR is currently working with other state and federal agencies to collect data on the state’s black bear population and movements.”

Experts suggest humans avoid contact with bears. Also:

  • Place trash outside on pick-up days, and don’t leave it out overnight

  • Remove deer and bird feeders at the first sighting of bear activity.

  • Feed pets inside; if pets are fed outside, only feed the amount that will be consumed by your pet in a short time.

  • Store grills and smokers inside when not in use to avoid damage to your cooking equipment.

If you do encounter a bear at close range:

  • Do not run from the bear but back away slowly but clap your hands to let it know you are present.

  • Stand tall and upright.

  • Avoid direct eye contact.

  • Make sure the bear has a free direction to escape.

  • Never purposely feed a bear.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.