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Reality Check: Bear Activity
Wildlife officials are putting parts of Buncombe County on high bear alert tonight. They say black bears are roaming residential neighborhoods now more than ever, so we wanted to know why this is happening.
We've all heard about the times black bears have been seen in Downtown Asheville and many feel it's just a part of living in the mountains. But this year wildlife officials say it's a real problem and bears are getting bolder than ever.
There's a bunch of bears on Beaucatcher Road in Asheville. The Dancing Bear toy store has the cute and cuddly kind but just outside you can find the real thing.
Matt Willey describes the time he first sighted a bear on Beaucather Road saying, "She was big, very big."
Willey just bought a house off Beaucatcher a couple of weeks ago. Today, just before noon, he snapped a photo and shot a few seconds of video of two black bears up the road in broad daylight. A couple of weeks ago Willey found himself just inches away from two bears as he drove past them with the top down on his convertible sports car.
A few weeks ago, I had my own encounter with a black bear as she walked down the middle of Beaucatcher Road. When the bear passed by I walked up to the street and grabbed my cell phone to get some video and that's when she turned around and started chasing me and my dog. So we ran back to the porch with the bear right behind us we managed to get in to the front door and slam it just in time. At the time, I didnt realize I was standing between the mother bear and her three cubs.
Sergeant Andrew Helton is with North Carolina's Wildlife Resource Commission. He says, That's an unusual incident right there."
While attacks are rare, Helton says bear sightings are becoming very common as bears head to town in search of food. Helton says their food supplies are gone, "We have very few white oak acorns which is their main food this time of year, red oaks have not hit so what is going to happen generally is the bear that are in higher elevations, they're going to be coming down closer to the towns, closer to residential areas."
Toby Best lives on Beaucather Road and has been more cautious lately saying, "Especially walking around your cars and stuff like that at night, you never know when you're going to walk out on one and startle it - you can't outrun them."
Sergeant Helton tells people, "Stand your ground, I wouldn't advise taking off running. Helton says if you encounter a bear that doesnt run away from you, you may have luck trying to intimidate the animal, You can make yourself look bigger than what you are."
The best way to avoid bears: use common sense. Remove anything that's a food source, including trash and bird feeders.
Sgt. Helton says the bear problem isnt going away anytime soon, "We expect to see more problems bears. Our biologists are receiving anywhere from 10 to 15 problem calls a day and we are seeing bears in places that we haven't seen before and Asheville is absolutely loaded with bear."
Other hotspots for bear sightings include Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Woodfin and anywhere around the malls. Black bear hunting season begins October 14th and ends the Saturday prior to the week of Thanksgiving. In November the female bears hibernate but the male bears don't.
By Mike Mason
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMason1