People are swarming back to the mountains, and that means more problems with bears. Well, more accurately, more problems with people who cause problems with bears.
Bears have already destroyed at least one car and have gotten into a number of garbage cans. Recently I saw a pile of bear poop that contained plastic wrap. That stuff can kill a bear by strangling its intestines.
Moreover, any bear that becomes accustomed to accessing trashcans around homes is more likely to break into houses and cars resulting in major damage. It could get itself killed too. Most people think it’s cute to have a bear in the yard, but there are always a few who see it as such a risk that they will shoot it. And truthfully, there is some risk. While bears are not naturally aggressive or particularly dangerous, you really don’t want a bear in your house. Or your car.
Bears will be bears. We humans have a choice about what we do. Making good choices requires having good information. While most locals pretty much know by now what to do and not do, it is visitors and short-term renters who appear to cause the most problems.
To that end, the B.E.A.R. (Bear Education and Resources) Task Force has begun a new project to educate visitors to the area. In coordination with the NC office of BearWise, we have created magnets and framed 5×7 cards that provide good basic information. If followed, the recommendations could prevent most of the problems that occur with bears.
The effort has been funded by a $2000 grant from Cullasaja Women’s Outreach. As a result, B.E.A.R. is able to provide the materials free of charge. In addition, the group provides brochures, which were made possible by a 2018 grant from CWO.
Plans are underway to distribute the materials to agents and homeowners who have rentals/VRBO’s or whose second homes are used by friends or family members. Highlands, Cashiers, Scaly Mountain, Sapphire, Toxaway and Glenville are all included in our distribution area.
Current distribution points include Highlands Town Hall, Mill Creek Gallery & Framing (Oak St.) and Highlands Visitor Center. As the project unfolds, we will publicize other locations where the items can be obtained.
It is our hope that these efforts, combined with the actions the Town of Highlands is taking (requiring bear-resistant trashcans), will result in a community that is safer for both people and bears.
By Cynthia Strain, Chairwoman of B.E.A.R.