Bears on the prowl

Did you know? Bears are omnivores — meaning they'll eat anyone in a Dodge Omni
By Paul Viau | Oct 18, 2012
BRAKE FOR BEARS — Stop by Jake Marzullo's roadside bear habitat, and see a true craftsman at work.

It’s bear season in North Carolina — both the legal hunting season for bear in many western counties, plus the dangerous time of year when bears everywhere are in a “feeding frenzy,” packing on the pounds before going into hibernation.
I have been accused of doing the same thing at recent Oktoberfest celebrations, but I don’t want to make light of the serious situation.

This time of year, bears are hungry — really hungry, and they will go to great lengths to get their paws on your tasty leftovers (aka — garbage), bird seed and (in the case of Yogi-the-Bear) your “pic-a-nic” basket.

I was recently at a party in a beautiful home high above Maggie Valley Club, and the main topic of discussion wasn’t the weather, the great food or even golf — everyone was sharing stories of recent bear encounters at and around their homes.
Most of the sightings were black bears, and all stories concluded with the bears high-tailing into the woods. But not all the bears are as polite as those that reside in Maggie Valley.

The headline in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times (Oct. 18) was “Bears force camp closures.” The cover story told of bears, including one “rogue bear,” that have become so emboldened, that the U.S. Forest Service was forced to close several campgrounds in Pisgah National Forest, including everyone’s favorite spot for fall cover, Graveyard Fields.

There are bears there, which may be why they call it “Graveyard” fields.
I would like to suggest a better place to go for fall color — where the bears are so friendly they pose for pictures, and even let you take them home. It’s the outdoor showroom of Jake Marzullo, Maggie Valley’s master carver.
I have been a huge fan of Jake’s for many years, and proudly have one of his carved wooden bears just outside my porch. I also have a carved wooden jack-o-lantern, and a wood sign that says, “Will write for food.”

Marzullo is an exceptionally talented carver for his age — a mere 32 years old. His secret is that he got a very early start. Jake started woodcarving when he was 12, and moved up to scroll-saw work with, helping a neighbor out on a few woodworking projects.

When Marzullo was 14, he went off to Scout camp, where he was inspired by a demonstration of chainsaw carving. He went back home asking his parents for a chainsaw.

I know how his parents must of felt, because my own son bought a crossbow (with the help of a neighbor friend) when he was just 13. We lived in suburban Miami at the time, which was not quite suitable for hunting. The crossbow went straight back to the store the next day, and the manager got a stern lecture about selling weapons to minors.

Anyway, back to the artistry of Jake Marzullo. He now has nearly 20 years of carving experience under his belt, and it shows. His carved bears, eagles and even Florida Gators (feel free to put your hands in the air and do the Gator chomp) seem to come to life — which brings me back to that whole bear safety issue.

’Tis the season to be very careful to avoid areas where bears have been spotted — except when driving through Maggie Valley in the vicinity of 1900 Soco Road.
There you can not only spot bears of all sizes. For much less than you would expect, you can have a nicely carved, well-behaved bear, and give it a good home.

For custom carving, you can also reach Jake Marzullo’s mobile at (814) 883-7994.