GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Stanley resident Sydney Szymanski has lived off of Blacksnake Road near Harper Park her entire life.
She said she's never had an encounter like the one she had Sunday evening. Szymanski said she was getting ready to go for a run in the park when she spotted a black bear near the edge of the park.
"I was down on my phone looking, trying to fix the music on my phone so I could go ahead and start running. All the sudden I look up and there's a bear down the corner by the 205 (baseball field) sign," explained Szymanski.
She said she immediately turned around and started walking the other way. She noticed other people hanging out near the entrance to the park and decided to warn them about the bear.
"I told everybody, 'you guys need to get in your cars and go because there's a bear down there'," said Szymanski.
She said she then went straight to her home and told her parents about what she saw. Szymanski and her mother returned to the park in a car and recorded video of the bear on a smartphone.
"I was like 'that's something that's gotta go on Facebook to let everybody know'," explained Szymanski.
She said the bear didn't seem to be causing any trouble when she came across it.
Jessie Birckhead, an extension biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, told WBTV that black bears live in eastern and western North Carolina and said it's not uncommon to see them pass through the Piedmont region.
She added that coming across a bear in person isn't something to worry about.
"What we would encourage you to do is always maintain a safe distance from bears. You want to give them lots of space, lots of respect," said Birckhead.
She said it is also a good idea to yell and make loud noises to let a bear know you are nearby. She encouraged anyone who thinks they may have a bear roaming around their community to make sure there is no food out in the open near their house.
Szymanski said that seeing a bear in person was a cool experience, but it isn't a moment she wants to relive.
"I got to see it in its natural habitat so it was pretty cool to see that, but I don't think I want to see it again."