June 22, 2017
Chair’s note – Occasionally there’s that opportunity to field a question or problem that doesn’t lend itself to quick solutions. Asheville resident Mr. Steve West presented us with one in recently raising a problem with bears in his community. It seems that a neighbor was persistently feeding the bears and thus conditioning similar expectations from others. The vulnerabilities were increasing – dramatically. Repeated calls, contacts and meetings with local and state authorities had produced no solutions and a firm final declaration that “there is no prohibitive law on the books.” An email to Senator Chuck Edwards (although he understood this community was not officially in his district) produced immediate action and defined a path to solutions. Senator Edwards demonstrated a public service model that merits positive attention. With such in mind, here’s Mr. West’s letter of appreciation-
Dear Senator Edwards,
Just a note to thank you for your intervention in our neighborhood neighbor/bear nuisance project. I must say that we were pleased and borderline overwhelmed at the speed and appropriate intensity of the response your prodding caused.
The quick action by the NC Wildlife Commission’s legislative liaison who referred me to Captain Mitch Kirkland, t Wildlife Commission’s LEO who in turn contacted me immediately. Since you were instrumental in starting this process, I want to tell you what transpired.
During our initial conversation, Capt. Kirkland’s plan was to visit the bear-feeding-lady along with a Commission biologist to explain to her the harm she was causing. During his visit with her, she apparently told him that she wasn’t feeding bears in spite of a few of the bears lounging in her back yard while he was there (I think they were probably waiting for the cafeteria to open). He left there and visited with a few nearby neighbors who corroborated the story I had shared with him, you, the legislative liaison, and Carl Mumpower. So, he contacted Buncombe County Animal control and a Buncombe County Assistant District Attorney who apparently told he that, with appropriate evidence, he would prosecute her.
When I again talked to Capt. Kirkland that same evening, here’s what he related to me. He went back to the bear-feeding-lady’s house and apparently told her that he knew she had lied to him, so here is what will happen. Through the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Division of Animal Control, evidence collection will begin. Once proof of feeding is obtained by them, the County ADA will begin legal proceedings against her. Further, in the event an person in the area reports being charged at by a bear or being injured by a bear (which has occurred recently in nearby Haw Creek), they will be forced to come back and shoot the bear. Since they will not know which bear actually committed the offense, they will necessarily have to shoot all twelve of them AND it will be HER FAULT! (emphasis added)
Tough talk indeed, and I truly hope it does not come to that. However, in the several days since Capt. Kirkland’s two visits to her, bear activity in the neighborhood has diminished substantially in my view. I have not noticed any bears on her property, nor have I seen them around the neighborhood at all. I want to believe and I hope that his tough talk had the effect of returning her into the realm of common sense and good neighborliness. We’ll see what happens. Like they say on the news programs, “Film at eleven.”
For the moment, we are in a wait and see mode; I hope it’s over. Please accept my sincere appreciation for your immediate and effective intervention and please share it with the legislative liaison and Captain Kirkland. Carl, it goes without saying that I appreciate you referring this to the right guy, but I’ll say it anyway . . . Thank You!
If this is all that was needed to solve our problem, I will let this letter suffice for a final report. However, if further action is necessitated I will let you know what happened in the future.
While I’m writing to you, allow me to also thank you for your bill to separate the city of Asheville into separate voting districts. Even though we live just outside the corporate limits, we appreciate your effort to bring some balance into the political life of the city that has control over so much that also affects us. This is a righteous effort, and I thank you very much!