Bear spotted in downtown Asheville. Here's what to know about common bear misconceptions. (2024)

The Asheville Fire Department had a furry surprise June 6 when a black bear made an appearance near the downtown fire station.

Three photos of the bear, which appeared to be ambling down the sidewalk in front of the Biltmore Corporate Offices building on North Pack Square, were posted on the fire department's Facebook page. The fire department's post was captioned, "Station 1 firefighters had a unique visitor downtown today!"

Though downtown Asheville certainly can't be described as a black bear's natural habitat, there have been plenty of backyard bear sightings already this year as the weather warms. In fact, a recent news release from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission noted that it's natural for bears to become more active around this time as they emerge from their winter dens looking to fill their bellies.

From downtown to the Blue Ridge Parkway to your own backyard, here's what to know about bear sightings and safety this season.

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Are black bears aggressive?

Bear spotted in downtown Asheville. Here's what to know about common bear misconceptions. (1)

This bear's calm stroll down an Asheville sidewalk isn't far removed from behavior you can generally expect from black bears, though certainly not the typical locale. However, the Wildlife Commission reminds the public that, while black bears are not normally aggressive toward humans, it is still possible for them to attack when cornered, to defend food and, perhaps most importantly to protect their cubs.

There isn't an exact metric for measuring when black bears are most aggressive, but it's worth keeping in mind that bear sightings seem to peak between late April and August, and many bears will be accompanied by cubs and searching for food sources during that period of time.

Black bear safety program BearWisealso reminds the public that mother bears aren't necessarily aggressive, as bear cubs generally climb trees when they feel threatened. If you encounter a bear with cubs, BearWise suggests staying calm and giving the mother plenty of room, even if her cubs are in a tree.

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Are black bears dangerous?

Bear spotted in downtown Asheville. Here's what to know about common bear misconceptions. (2)

The Wildlife Commission’s BearWise coordinator Ashley Hobbs said in the recent news release that, while black bears are not generally dangerous and are rarely aggressive toward humans, people sharing territory with the animals should do their part to reduce the potential for conflict.

Black bear safety programBearWise recommendationsinclude:

  • Never feed or approach bears.
  • Secure food, garbage and recycling.
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active.
  • Never leave pet food outdoors.
  • Clean and store grills and smokers.
  • Alert neighbors to bear activity.

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How fast can black bears move?

Though they may not look it, black bears aresurprisingly fast. They can sprint up to 35 miles per hour and climb 100 feet up a tree in 30 seconds.

How big is the average black bear?

Bear spotted in downtown Asheville. Here's what to know about common bear misconceptions. (3)

According to BearWise, the record weight for a black bear is over 800 pounds. Male black bears generally weigh between 130 and 500 pounds, while females are smaller at around 90 to 350 pounds.

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Black bear myths

BearWise also provided a list of misconceptions around black bears to set the record straight. Here's what they included:

  • Misconception: Black bears that wander into campsites, towns or cottage communities are dangerous. Rather, as long as food and garbage is stored safely in territories where bears are active, the animals are most likely to move on to keep searching elsewhere for their next meal.
  • Misconception: A mother black bear with cubs is always dangerous. Rather, it’s actually rare for mother black bears to attack in order to defend her cubs, as cubs climb trees when threatened, ensuring their safety to the mother bear.
  • Misconception: A black bear standing on its hind legs is about to charge. Rather, black bears stand in order to see, smell or hear better than it can when on all fours.
  • Misconception: Black bears have poor eyesight. Rather, bears have color vision that is similar to a human's, with the added benefit of sharp night vision.
  • Misconception: Black bear attacks are common. Rather, black bear attacks are extremely rare, and most bears will retreat upon detecting a human before their presence is noticed.

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Iris Seaton is the trending news reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at iseaton@citizentimes.com.

Bear spotted in downtown Asheville. Here's what to know about common bear misconceptions. (2024)

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