For nearly a week, a mother bear and her two cubs roamed the streets of Chatsworth, Ga. They dug through garbage cans for scraps and lay down on fresh-cut lawns or in backyards.
Locals snapped photos as they passed the animals or tried to get closer when the bears scampered through yards. Several left food out. Some called 911, dispatchers said, each day the black bears were spotted.
"The bears are in my neighborhood across from my house," one woman told a dispatcher.
"They got my garbage out and pulled it out behind the house," a man called from Old Dalton-Ellijay Road.
But on Thursday, some locals were surprised when they learned the black bear and her 10-month-old cubs, that hadn't harmed anyone, were dead, put down by wildlife officers.
"It's very upsetting that they put them down," local resident Brandi Patterson said in an email. "I don't understand why they couldn't have just transported them somewhere else."
Chuck Waters, regional supervisor with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said officials had no choice but to euthanize the family of bears because they had learned to rely on human food and were no longer wild.
The bears were captured Wednesday, Waters said, and officials found tags on them showing they had been caught once before. The animals had been hauled from Big Canoe, Ga., and released in the Cohutta Wilderness for a second chance.
"It's unfortunate," said Waters, supervisor in Region 1, which covers Northwest Georgia.
Officials tried every option to keep the bears alive, he said, from shooting them with rubber bullets to warning residents to hide their food.
But bears who learn to love human food will seek it again when released somewhere else, he said.
"The real take-home message is a fed bear is a dead bear," Waters said.
Try telling that to some residents in Chatsworth, where this kind of bear is celebrated each fall at the Black Bear Festival.