Letter: Sounding the alarm about town bears

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The in-town bear problem is escalating. Last summer, I had the luxury of taking walks in my Grove Park neighborhood until I had face-to-face encounters with three different bears. So, I went to a City Council meeting and begged them to intervene with some type of protective measures. Their condescending attitude toward me was insulting, even though, at that time, there were 200 tagged bears in the city limits.

Living with bears in our urban environment is not normal. This summer, the situation is exponentially worse. My neighbor was charged by a 500-pounder a couple weeks ago while putting out his garbage. This same leviathan knocked over my garbage twice last week. So, I called the police. Sorry, they said. So I called the head wildlife guy. Never called me back.

So I called the N.C. Real Estate Commission’s legal department … and asked them to add a clause to the property disclosure statement letting buyers know that it is dangerous to live in North Asheville. Someone needs to inform all these unsuspecting transplants who are moving here in droves and are paying outrageous prices for housing without being told that hanging out in their backyards at night might be an invitation for disaster. Are we really going to wait until there’s a catastrophe before officials take some sort of rational action?

— Allison Frank


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18 thoughts on “Letter: Sounding the alarm about town bears

  1. SpareChange

    “Living with bears in our urban environment is not normal.”

    Statement fixed: “Living in the mountains, surrounded by national and state forests, and not expecting to encounter a species that was here for many centuries before any people came is not normal.”

    — Serious advice: Learn about them. Learn to live safely with them. Realize that short of slaughtering them wholesale for miles around, there is no “solution” to your problem. And if that is too much to handle, move or stay in your house or car.

    • Lulz

      LOL you don’t suppose overdevelopment has anything to do with it? Never saw a bear when I was growing up here. Rapid deforestation so a bunch of people who call themslevea environmentalist LOL.

      • SpareChange

        Since Lulz posted his comment as a “reply,” I’ll just say, “Gee thanks, but I’d really rather not be even indirectly associated with the opinion expressed.” Spend even a moment thinking about or researching the topic, and you would realize that the reason you “saw no bears growing up here,” was simply because there were no bears here.

        The fact that they are now more abundant in the area is not because they have been pushed out of other areas, so much as being due to their population recovering and range expanding significantly over the past 30 years. Black bear populations were so decimated by clear cutting destruction of habitat, the chestnut blight (major source of food), and unregulated hunting (previously, no season and no bag limits), that by the mid-70s they were designated as “a species of special concern” (just short of endangered) and were considered “rare” throughout WNC. So, it has only been in more recent years that their population has grown significantly in the Asheville region.

        There is no question that there is and will continue to be an issue with development intruding on bear habitats, and with a growing bear population intruding on even long established populated areas. However, we shouldn’t distort facts and history just to make a sarcastic political point. There are plenty of legitimate opportunities and targets for that. https://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/documents/Species/Bear/Appendix_A.pdf

    • Mike Breck

      It’s useful to remember that we are the invasive species, not black bears, and act appropriately. I’ve lived in the Grove spark area for 10 years, walk my dog a lot and frequently see bears, and have never once felt threatened, or been charged. Quite the opposite in fact. Bears really don’t want anything to do with us and would prefer to avoid or remove themselves from contact if possible. Want to make a difference? Don’t put your trash out the night before like so many clueless folks do. Wait until the morning. Don’t hang bird feeders this time of year. The birds have enough to eat already. And don’t freak if you happen upon a bear. Just stay calm, move slowly away even if it means retracing your steps and you’ll likely find the best moves away from you as well. Be smart be steady and you may come to admire their strength, their demeanor and their intelligence. Each bear has a unique personality just like people do. This year our commonest local guy is one of the cubs that was born here 3 years ago. He’s young and strong but not particularly interested in people. So get comfortable with your neighbors including bears. If you can’t you might as well move because they’re here to stay.

  2. luther blissett

    Exactly what type of “protective measures” does the letter-writer propose beyond not being dumb about outdoor food, trash, and birdfeeders, and not getting between a mother and cubs? Is clapping loudly and shouting “go away, bear!” not sufficient? If she means “get the cops to shoot ’em all” she should say so.

  3. Potts

    So long as people attempt to rely upon a centralized power for “safety” – particularly personal well being (mental…) – we will forever reap the social sowing of a few empowered by many helpless.
    In my many bear encounters they have been rather nonchalant. I only WISH the humans of my daily life were so calm and non-confrontational.
    This demand for municipal action… “do something”… is the enabler of great tyranny. That is… “do something” can turn into a tyrannical decree – perhaps a curfew, perhaps your home demolished to make space “wildlife”, perhaps 500% tax hikes and tremendous regulation of everything an oligarchy can convince you to allow into its greedy hands.
    That is… be careful in your asking for “safety”… for whatever reduction of the already minute risk of a bear bite, are you willing to trade away you, your neighbor’s, and your children’s freedom?
    Trust in your own problem solving ability, trust in your ability to defend yourself… your neighbors will help you (or not) and life will go on (or not). Your safety is NEVER assured… perhaps its not a bear: perhaps its a homicidal maniac, perhaps its a drunk driver, perhaps its the rock you trip over and the grade you tumble down… perhaps its a rainbow, perhaps its a smiling face, perhaps its a bag of money gifted mysteriously…. thats life, you take this opportunity with risks.

    • Bright

      On point! People have lost their sense of place in this big world. They’ve had their chance, and mucked it up royally. Mama nature will have the last hurrah.

    • Lou

      Potts thank you…point made without being confrontational…much like our local bears. I say round up all the recent transplants and relocate THEM.

  4. Potts

    Asheville is significantly more “human” dangerous than “bear” dangerous.
    Note the satirical layers…
    Much more fruitful would be a letter regarding “How to manage (or avoid) a bear encounter in your backyard”, or something of that nature…
    Though, for some, it seems all they are able to do is demand others serve them. Little realized, unfortunately, is how this demand for servitude ends in a role reversal – those who demand servitude end up becoming slaves by the inability to function as a sovereign entity. Interdependence is civilization – though here we have the promotion of an absolute sense of helplessness… and for those in such a state, we have many willing to create a state to completely relieve them of such hard decisions and risky maneuvers such as how/when/where to take the trash out…. sit in your padded VR room, exit only to serve the state… some would be willing…

  5. Phillip Williams

    I remember some years back, when the Biltmore Estate allowed limited deer hunting on the estate, the game tags being distributed on a “lottery” basis. The hue and cry in Biltmore Forest was immediate – nobody wanted “Bambi” killed – the deer were so beautiful to watch….until a few more years later when overpopulation resulted in Bambi and his clan eating up Mr. & Mrs. Gottrocks’ herbaceous borders – then they were wondering which option would be best – to hire some professional hunters to kill them down a bit, or to put out poison.

    I remember also when killing a wild turkey could get you put under a jail – never saw a single one in the wild while growing up in the rural Cruso community in Haywood County, nor even when hiking up in the Shining Rock Wilderness area. But they made a comeback, and when a limited season was allowed on them in the late 1990’s, one of my pals approached a neighbor who had a large flock of turkeys residing on his land. The old boy all but ran him off with a broom, saying nobody was killing HIS turkeys!

    A few years later, the old gent sidled up to us in the J&S Cafeteria in Enka, and asked if we’d like to drop by and shoot a turkey or two. My pal didn’t even look up from his lunch. “Nope” he said. “I wouldn’t kill one of your turkeys if I was paid to. Fact o’ bidness, I hope they take over your place and peck your damn eyeballs out.”

    Certain species are definite survivors – tough and willing to eat about anything – and not many folks hunt anymore. And we keep turning fields and woods and vacant lots into apartment complexes, so it adds up…Bears and deer and turks are pretty smart, and know a good thing such as free grub and a chance of not getting shot at when they see it….

  6. Stan Hawkins

    This past spring an attractive rooster showed up at my home and property in the county. We enjoyed his company for a few days before I tried to chase him away (bad knees and all). Little did I know that roosters are fairly quick. Yet, I tried to show him my speed and send him on his way with little success.

    A few days later, I was looking for my corn hole boards under the screened back porch. When I peeked behind one of the boards leaning against a wall, I discovered where said rooster was “doing his business” quite excessively. Well…., at this point the rooster was going to have to go. We called Buncombe County (yes I know) animal control folks and advised them of our situation. If you guessed that they told me if I could catch the rooster and hold him, they would come and pick it up – you would be right. I explained that I had been racing the rooster for about a week already bad knees to boot. Naturally, the bureaucrat restated his position that I would have to catch him first, offering no strategy to achieve that goal. Neighbors and other friends did not show any interest in me transferring said rooster to their ownership, sadly.

    As my blood pressure rose, I wondered what services would be provided for a rabid dog, cat, raccoon, or fox? I already knew my tax dollars were of little concern to Buncombe County other than the free cash flow they need for their “important conferences & retention benefits.” I thanked the county employee for the time. This story ends as I suspect you are guessing, with a Remington 22 caliber hollow point 30 yard shot, (one shot – a short flight) a wheel barrow, a shovel, and a hole in the ground.

    So, why tell this story you may be asking? As a citizen of Buncombe County, I expect very little return for paying my tribute (taxes) to this local government. Yet, the bureaucrats had an opportunity to provide some excellent service and chose to just let it slide. Was I surprised you might ask?

    No, and what does this have to do with bears anyway? Nothing!

    • Not bright, no worries

      You are voter in Buncombe, no? It seems you can use the internet as well. Check the BCAC website. Doesn’t seem like a rooster fails under their charter. Unless you are scared of a rooster something. Sounds like you solved the your issue. Good for you, but I would suggest stewing the rooster next time. Prepared correctly, rooster is quite good.

      • Stan Hawkins

        Well, the bureaucrats did deviate from their sacred charter and offered to come fetch the clucker once I had apprehended him. I’m supposing that their sacred charter then is mearly a guideline as can be seen in the news almost daily now, But I digress.

        And yes I am a voter, a citizen, and love to make fun of an overfunded, bloated, double talking arrogant county government as I contemplate where my nearly $40,000 in property taxes have vanished to?

    • Bright

      “This story ends as I suspect you are guessing, with a Remington 22 caliber hollow point 30 yard shot, (one shot – a short flight) a wheel barrow, a shovel, and a hole in the ground.” Proud of his gun expertise and the chance to use it? Enough to say you shot the thing instead of starring in your own movie or newscast…ends the same either way. Ho hum.

      • Stan Hawkins

        Yes, a real yawner of a “big government – small detail.”

        Private citizen problem solving would be a more accurate editorial. Just proves that “daddy and mommy big government” is not the answer to everything although, I suppose I could have just carved out a “safe space” for the critter.

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