Residents should learn to coexist with wildlife

Jun 05, 2014

A mother bear and one of her cubs are dead after a Maggie Valley resident had a close encounter with the animals earlier this week.

The mother bear was periodically disturbing the resident’s bird feeders. Claiming the bear was charging him, the resident made the decision to shoot the mother bear twice, leaving behind three cubs in a tree nearby.

Many people in the community have commented that the death of this bear wasn’t justified — the resident could have taken down his bird feeders or he could have stayed inside his home. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ but the fact remains that two cubs — not even old enough to eat solid food — are orphans now and a vehicle probably hit the third cub that got away from wildlife officers.

Since there were no witnesses, we’ll never know for sure what transpired that day or whether this tragedy could have been avoided. We can only try to learn from this incident and hope it doesn’t happen again.

Of course residents have a right to enjoy their private property and protect themselves from wildlife if they feel their lives are in danger, but we also need to learn how to coexist with the wildlife. The bear and elk inhabited this land long before we were here and we want to keep them here.

The part-time resident who shot the bear suggested it is the responsibility of the state wildlife officers to assume the responsibility for removing problem bears from private property.

That wasn’t a viable solution even before the department’s budget was slashed drastically.

Considering that between 15 to 20 calls a day are fielded in Western North Carolina about bear sightings, such a suggestion is clearly not feasible.

Our wildlife is a big part of what makes our community beautiful and also attracts tourists to the area so they can see these animals in their natural habitat. We’ve already stolen much of their habitat, which is why they are depending more and more upon our trash, bird seed and any other available food source.

We must use common sense when it comes to dealing with bears. They will not come sniffing around your home unless they smell food. Don’t leave out food sources like trash or bird feeders out overnight.

If you see a bear in your yard, don’t go outside. If a bear keeps returning to your home even after all food sources have been removed, call Wildlife Resources Commission for assistance.

We encourage residents to enjoy watching our wildlife from a safe distance. Killing one of these creatures for instinctually looking for food is heartbreaking and we hope it doesn’t happen again.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 05, 2014 17:10

So I don't want to be anti-bear -- but the bear population is increasing at 6% per year.  There will be increasing need to control bear populations where they are not wanted.  This paper reported bear "evidence" near an elementary school.  I'm glad we're talking about what to do with the cubs and not where to bury what's left of a small child that ran into a bear at school.

Posted by: John C Sanderson | Jun 06, 2014 11:41

I worked last year for Buncombe County Schools in the Owen district (i.e., Swannanoa, Black Mountain). Coming from Haywood County, I was surprised with the number of reports I heard from staff members, parents, and community members about black bears being spotted around their homes. There were no bear shootings reported, however, and there were no bear attacks. While it is true that people have to take precautions when black bears are in the vicinity, they usually amount to nothing more than a slight inconvenience (e.g., keeping food secured). And even with all of the reported bear sightings in that area, there were no incidents of problems with bears on school grounds, at least none I am aware of. It seemed to me that the folks in that area had learned how to deal with the bear population - although I'm sure that some of them experienced a fair amount of anxiety when they saw or heard a bear rumbling across their patio at night.


The bottom line is that bears are part of the natural ecosystem in areas like our beautiful mountains and, as land is developed in more and more areas that have been part of the bears' natural habitat, humans are going to encounter bears on a more regular basis. So, we can either learn to co-exist with these animals, or we can declare an all-out war on any wild critters that "trespass" on our property.


It is ironic, in my estimation, that the man in question here was taking steps to attract some wild critters to his property (i.e., birds) for his enjoyment, but that he felt compelled to shoot another wild critter he didn't want on his property. Humans are supposed to be the intelligent beings in this relationship. We are capable of understanding the consequences of our actions. Bears don't have that capacity. They just search for food, and in the case of a mother bear, she aggressively protects her young. If humans are going to impose themselves into nature, then being the thinking beings we are, we need to do so with an understanding of how the natural world operates. If you don't want to encounter a bear, don't build a house in bear country, and if you do build a house in bear country, then show some respect for the critters that naturally live there.

Posted by: Ron Rookstool | Jun 10, 2014 10:35

I agree that we must learn to co exist with all wildlife in our mountains. After having a bear trash my bird feeders I had the common sense to put them in the garage out night. I do not believe it is right to bait the bears (leave food out for them to return) and then to shoot them when they come on ones property. The wildlife folks do not have the manpower to respond to each bear siting, nor should we pay more taxes to staff up wildlife officials to replace common sense.  It is a travesty for an outsider to move here and think shooting bears is the norm. This man should follow protocol and take his feeders in at night. Continuing to leave his feeders out at night will continue attracting bears and it is a matter of time before this man shoots another one. Living here is so different than living in FL.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 10, 2014 13:53

"Living here is so different than living in FL. "  -- Agreed.  My brother lives in Daytona Beach and has a picture of his neighbor's hammock with a black bear laying in it!  And that's not a joke.  Really, a wild bear was laying in his hammock on his back.  I don't hear that kind of black bear in our parts.  :-)


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