Bears Invade Subdivision, Asheville Citizen Times
Western NC-- A neighborhood has come to a fork in the road about how to get rid of bears. Some in the Western NC subdivision are in favor of using hunting dogs to run off the bears and others are not.
The North Fork Valley subdivision at the center of a Western North Carolina bear "break-in" spike will likely continue bringing in hunting dogs despite complaints about the controversial practice.
Laurel Ridge subdivision is also looking at fining property owners who fail to take precautions against bears, homeowners association president Liz Stillwell said.
The wooded subdivision of 70 homes experienced about 10 incidents this year in which bears broke into houses in search of food. That was part of a larger jump in the number of bear complaints around the mountains last year and this year, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission figures.
No one was reported injured from Laurel Ridge bear encounters. But the homeowners association felt it had become dangerous enough that it voted to bring in dogs to scare off the bears. Now, almost two months later, Stillwell said those efforts were successful.
"The last time they went through, they didn't pick up a scent. We feel like that worked," Stillwell said.
Because the subdivision sits between wild and protected areas such as the Burnett Reservoir and Bee Tree Reservoir, more bears will likely come through next year, she said.
"That is why to me, the running of the dogs, that option is not off the table. We may have to do it again next summer. That decision will be made next year," she said.
The association will also put out guidelines on how to keep bears away, including not leaving out garbage, pet food, or bird seed. They may levy fines when homeowners or their renters don't follow the rules, the association president said.
The decision to run dogs followed a similar attempt in 2005 that homeowners said was a "disaster" with dogs and bears running amok.
No hunting actually occurs in the subdivision, Stillwell said. The dog owners use the opportunity to practice hunting techniques.
But some residents say chasing the bears is cruel, especially at a time the animals are working to put on fat for cold winter months.
"We had a momma with two babies and a momma with four babies and the odds were good that the momma and babies were going to get separated," resident Shirley Hinson said.
Fourteen states that allow bear hunting have banned hounding, which involves dogs chasing bears until they climb a tree, according to the U.S. Humane Society. Hunters then shoot the bears out of the trees.
Hinson said she doesn't believe the dog running was successful because she still sees the bears in her yard.
A more effective approach would be cutting down on anything they could eat, she said.
"I thought we should have tried the other methods first," she said.
Homeowners association officials say they are not trying to be cruel, but that it's important that bears are scared of people. Now many of them are not.
Western North Carolina set a record for bear nuisance complaints last year with 430, partly because of a poor mast crop that forced bears to look for food from people.
Asheville Citizen Times