Don’t feed the bears, it will cost you $250

People in Highlands have been known to feed bears that happen through their yards. So now there is an ordinance against intentionally doing so with financial repercussions.

At October’s Town Board meeting, Mayor Pat Taylor presented an ordinance against “feeding wild animals.”

“I have been told that there are some owners of VRBO rentals who have encouraged their renters to throw leftover food into their yard so they can have a ‘bear photo experience’ while they are here, which means they are consciously feeding the bears in town,” he said.

The town has gone to considerable expense over the past couple years to deter bears in town. Bearproof garbage cans and bear-resistant toters have been placed throughout the business district to stop bears from using town garbage cans and business dumpsters as their grocery store.

And it’s worked.

“We don’t have bears strolling down Main Street tipping over garbage cans anymore,” said the mayor. 

Commissioner Amy Patterson said the ordinance has to be on the books so people know it’s illegal. 

“We don’t want bears around threatening people’s animals, their house, or them when they try to get into their cars,” she said. “Without this ordinance on the books saying it’s illegal to feed them, there is no enforcement or anything to complain about.”

Commissioner John Dotson asked if the ordinance was enforceable. 

Like most police ordinances, infractions will be complaint-driven and it will be the responsibility of the Highlands Police Department or NC Wildlife officers to enforce the ordinance within the corporate boundaries of the Town of Highlands. The penalty is $250.

Patterson said the key word in the ordinance is “intentional.”

“Access to food is different than intentionally feeding the bears,” she said. “Everyone needs to limit access regarding birdfeeders and grills, but that’s different than intentionally feeding the bears.”

The ordinance reads:

  1. a) Intentional feeding of bears is prohibited within the town of Highlands.
  2. b) Leaving food, garbage or any other substance in any manner that attracts or allows bears access is prohibited in the Town of Highlands.

Sec. 3-5. – Violations.

Violations of this subsection shall be punishable by a civil penalty of two-hundred and fifty dollars ($250).

Sec. 3-6. – Enforcement.

Officers of the Highlands Police Department and/or North Carolina Wildlife Officers are responsible for enforcing this ordinance within the corporate boundaries of the Town of Highlands.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to adopt the ordinance as presented.

Bear resistant containers

Also, last week commissioners lifted the moratorium requiring residents to get a bear-resistant toter garbage can with lift a bar.

Read more about the bear resistant toters HERE.

When bear-resistant toters were backordered in area hardware stores, commissioners agreed to sideline the requirement until stocks were replenished.

They have been replenished, so now they are required.

According to Public Works Director Lamar Nix, 70% to 80% of residents have complied with the order, but nearly 200 people haven’t.

Nix said the toters are heavy which is why the bar is important because the truck does the work.

He added that another problem is the corrals people have built to house their toters. 

“If we can’t roll them out, then they have to be picked up, which defeats the purpose,” said Nix. “So, they aren’t being picked up if our workers can’t roll them out of the corral.”

He said notices have been put on the toters so homeowners know what they need to do.

Patterson suggested a $50 fine and no garbage pickup if residents don’t comply.

Pictured at the top of the article is a bear on Sunset Rock who got his hands on a young man’s ice cream.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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