The North Carolina Wildlife Commission recently sponsored a BearWise workshop in Asheville.
Cynthia Strain of the Highlands B.E.A.R. Taskforce and I, along with BEAR board members Elaine Carlton, Gerri Tulley, Debbie Lassiter and Kelly and Scott McDuff all attended. Highlands was well represented.
BearWise is a new program for communities committed to adopting policies and practices that help manage and coexist with the bear population. To learn more about the program click HERE. The website features the six basics for minimizing bear inactions and confrontations.
The workshop confirmed Highlands is not the only community with problems in managing the bear population, although some of our recent incidents truly underscore the expanding problem. The leader of the workshop, Colleen Olfenbuttel of the Wildlife Resources Commission is a certified wildlife biologist. She pointed out that there are more bears living on North Carolina’s east coast than in the mountains. Due to the size of the area, and maybe community practices, Olfenbuttel stated the encounters with humans is not as great a problem on the coastal plain as in the mountains.
I also learned that Highlands is in a strategic position to become one of the first state certified BearWise Communities. The program consists of three parts, education, waste management, and enforcement ordinances. The B.E.A.R. Taskforce is in position to expand their education efforts. The town is moving toward adopting garbage collection procedures that deter bears, and I believe we will adopt stricter ordinances concerning feeding bears and garbage disposal.
The Community Coffee with the mayor will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, at the Hudson Library. The topic will be how to become a BearWise Community. Cynthia Strain of the B.E.A.R. Taskforce will join me on the program.
I want to invite everyone to this meeting, the business community, nonprofits and local residents. To implement this management program, everyone will have to buy in and participate. It can’t be a matter of just town staff and officials solving a problem, everyone has to be a part of the solution. Please come and learn about the basics of the BearWise program and how Highlands can implement them. Other organizations like country clubs can also become BearWise communities.
This session will be focused on the BearWise effort. It will not be about bear hunting which is prohibited in the Highlands town limits.
I want to encourage folks to attend the upcoming community coffees. It’s been suggested I should host town meetings to get citizen feedback. My response is that I hold a town meeting on the last Friday of every month, aka the community coffee. Last year we covered an array of issues, but at every event I am available to talk about any town issue. My only caveat is that my response is what I think at that moment. Final decisions on major issues must be approved by the town board.
Also, I talked again with NCDOT. They have three crews with large chippers cleaning roadways in the Highlands and Scaly area.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor