Residential areas in western North Carolina have seen an increase in bear activity in the past month, including some especially unusual behavior from a couple of black bears in Asheville and Cashiers.
“In recent weeks, we have had several bears that have learned how to open car doors, and they get in the cars and look for food,” said Mike Carraway, a wildlife biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, which responds to bear incidents. “On a couple of occasions, the door has closed behind and trapped the bear in the car. And of course, that's a bad thing for the bear and the car.”
The two bears that were trapped were safely released, although the cars were totaled from damaged interiors.
Carraway recommends that residents in areas with high bear activity remove food from vehicles and garages, and keep their car doors locked. He said many problems this time of year are caused by yearling bears that have recently left their mothers.
“They're like teenagers, they're getting in trouble, finding a new place to live,” Carraway said. “So it's really important to remove food sources from around your houses. That includes bird feeders and trash, and compost. Anything that would smell good to a bear needs to be either secured or removed.”
A scarcity of wild food may be causing the problem, Carraway said, although the two bears caught in the act appeared healthy when released.