Neighbors spot black bear swimming near popular Lake Norman beach, prompting alerts

Where’s the bear?

Neighbors say they saw a small black bear swimming near several Lake Norman coves and the popular Ramsey Creek Park swimming beach in Cornelius over the past week, but the bear appears to have since vanished, police said.

The beach at 18441 Nantz Road opened for the season at noon Saturday.

“Poor guy,” woman says of swimming bear

At 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, a resident along Harbor Light Boulevard posted on NextDoor that “a small black bear came out of the water” near the end of her road, which runs along a peninsula off Jetton Road.

“No joke!” the woman said. “Animal control called, keep on the lookout!”

The woman said she called the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 866-318-2401 because “we have a lot of people that walk down this street with their dogs (this road is a peninsula, one way in and out). I didn’t want anything to happen.

“By the way, they appreciated the call and asked if anyone else spots him to call again,” the woman said.

“I would have done the same thing,” a woman replied on NextDoor. “It’s not his fault people keep taking away his home. Poor guy.”

Bear looked “very tired,” boater says

Another woman replied that her husband saw the bear swimming in the lake and followed it by boat from the cove off Pinwhenny Road, which is on a peninsula just to the south of the Harbor Light Boulevard peninsula.

Her husband watched the bear climb from the water onto Carlow Lane, she said. That’s off Belle Isle Drive and John Connor Road on the peninsula.

“It was a long swim, and it was very tired getting out of the water, but he survived,” the woman said on NextDoor.

Bear swam across the lake, residents say

The bear may be the same one spotted across the lake in Denver in eastern Lincoln County earlier in the week, other residents replied.

The sightings appear to coincide with reports of a black bear swimming Wednesday in the Ramsey Creek Park beach area.

In an email Friday, state Wildlife Resources Officer Sampson Parker said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department boat patrol unit notified the state about a bear swimming in the lake. But Parker said his law enforcement division received no reports of the bear threatening people or causing damage.

Melissa Knicely, spokeswoman for the CMPD Animal Care & Control Division, said Friday that no further sightings were reported to police.

She advised anyone who feels threatened by a bear to call 911. If it’s just a sighting to report, call N.C. Wildlife, she said, “as this is their jurisdiction.”

“Don’t freak out” if you see a bear

This time of year, black bears are just passing through the region on their way elsewhere, state Wildlife Resources Commission enforcement officers told the Observer after a bear showed up in a woman’s yard on Shinnville Road in Mooresville in May 2023.

Black bears are more likely to appear in the Charlotte area in June, sometimes in May and more rarely April and March, Parker previously told the Observer.

In late March 2022, three black bears showed up in woods near a Huntersville woman’s home, and her friendly dog wanted to play with them, the Observer reported at the time.

“Don’t freak out,” Parker urged homeowners after that sighting. “I wouldn’t say they are harmless, but they’re not aggressive.”

State wildlife officers typically don’t respond to such a sighting unless a bear is being a nuisance, such as rummaging through trash cans and refusing to leave, he said.

Past black bear sightings

Bears have a history of traipsing through the Charlotte area.

On June 30, 2020, a black bear camped out in a tree in the front yard of a home in Mooresville, McClatchy News reported at the time.

On May 31, 2020, a 13-year-old Charlotte girl calmly shot video of a black bear meandering through her family’s University-area backyard as her mom acknowledged going “hysterical,” the Observer reported at the time.

That same weekend, a woman said she and her husband spotted one while driving along Prairie Rose Lane in Huntersville’s StoneGate Farms neighborhood.

If you encounter a bear

Black bear attacks on humans are rare, as the bears are seldom aggressive, according to, which the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission links to on its black bear site.

Stay still if you see a bear before the animal spots you, BearWise advises. Admire the bear, then walk quietly away.

If a bear sees you, never run, BearWise urges. Instead, “back away slowly in the opposite direction and wait for the bear to leave.”