The Black Mountain Bear Study was conducted to determine the best ways to help residents and visitors of Black Mountain coexist with black bears. The information below may be of value to help you if bears are in your neighborhood. If you have questions about the Black Mountain Bear Study, you can download the brochure. If you still have questions email blackmtnbearstudy@gmail.com.

Black Bear Ecology
Black bears are found in the Mountains and Coastal Plain of North Carolina. There are between 4,000 - 6,000 bears in western part of North Carolina, and between 9,000 - 11,000 bears in the eastern part of North Carolina. Bears, on average, are larger at the Coast than the Mountains. The average weight for male black bears in the Mountains is 211 pounds and the average weight for female black bears in the Mountains is 167 pounds. Coastal male and female bears average 333 pounds and 198 pounds, respectively.

Black bears are opportunistic and will it eat a variety of foods such as plants, berries and other fruits, insects, nuts and carrion (dead animals). Their eyesight is fair, but they have a great senses of smell and hearing. They can run up to 35 miles per hour, are great tree climbers and can also swim. Sometimes they will stand up on their hind legs or come closer to get a better look. This is not necessarily a sign of aggression.

If food is not available, bears do not have to eat, urinate or defecate all winter long and can simply sleep through the winter. Some scientists call this winter denning, others call it hibernation. Bears differ from groundhogs, squirrels and other hibernators in that they do not have to wake up to eat and excrete waste. When bears come out in the spring, they are very hungry and most of our bear encounters happen during the spring and summer. Typically, by fall, there is enough natural food available for bears, like nuts and acorns, decreasing their need to roam into towns and neighborhoods in search of food.

Food Conditioning
The black bear population in Western North Carolina is growing, which means there are more bears looking for food. When bears discover food that is easy to access and high in fat or calories, they will continue to return to that food source. Many people are unintentionally teaching bears that they can provide them with food, such as garbage, bird seed, and dog food. Bears become conditioned to return to a site that provides a great food source.

Food-conditioned bears are bears that continue to return to locations of human-provided foods even when there are people around or other deterrents that would normally scare a bear away. This can be dangerous for the bear and for the humans.Bears eating garbage

We will hopefully always have bears living in the woods surrounding Black Mountain, and the woods are where bears belong. It is only when they encounter an easy source of food, such as pet food, bird seed, or garbage that the bears begin to consider our neighborhoods and towns suitable places to return to find more food. Don’t feed bears.

Preventing Bear Encounters
Tips for making sure you are not providing food for bears:

  1. Store bird seed, pet food, grills and garbage in secure buildings or bear-proof trash cans.
  2. If bears have been seen in the area, put up bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders. Make sure extra bird seed that has fallen on the ground is also picked up. Store seed and feeders in a secure building or bear-proof trash can. Bird feeders may only need to be put up for two weeks or so, but if bears continue to be seen in the area, bird feeders may need to be put up permanently during the spring and summer. Birds have plenty of food in the spring and summer, so this will not negatively effect them.
  3. If you feed pets outside, only put out enough food for your pet to eat within the day. Clean up excess food and store pet food in a secure building or bear-proof container.
  4. Make sure grills are clean, including the grease trap.
  5. If you have trouble with bears getting into gardens, compost bins or beehives, consider putting up an electric fence.

What to do if You Encounter a Bear
If a bear comes into your yard you can teach him that your yard is not a suitable place for him to be. If you are a safe distance from the bear, such as up on a porch or balcony, you can yell, bang pots, honk car horns, whistle or make any other noise that will annoy the bear. You are teaching the bear not to like being in your yard.

If You Encounter a Bear While Walking in Town or on a Trail

  1. Do not run or look the bear in the eye.
  2. Back away slowly.
  3. If necessary, make yourself look bigger (put your hands over your head or raise a backpack over your head) and yell in a deep voice.
  4. Do not try to scare a bear off of food, if they are eating.
  5. Keep dogs on leash. Do not let them chase a bear.

REMINDER: BEARS CANNOT BE RELOCATED
It is expensive, time consuming and risky for wildlife personnel to relocate bears. There are not enough suitable areas uninhabited by people and bears to move the bears to.  Bears can also travel long distances and will often return to their original location.