Black bears in Asheville, NC

Photo by @thecatherinecampbell

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Spring in Asheville means fresh produce, drum circles, pollen, and black bears — and the latter begin  emerging from their dens in March + April. With that in mind, we’re sharing some facts about these ursines, including what to do if you run into one. 

Here are some beary cool facts about NC’s black bears, by the numbers:

  • 800,000. The estimated black bear population in North America
  • 7,000-9,000. The number of black bears estimated to live in WNC, according to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
  • 61%. The percentage of NC’s total land area occupied by black bears. 
  • 100-200. The number of ebony ursines thought to live year round in Asheville
  • 41%. The percentage of calls from Buncombe County about bears versus NC’s other 99 counties.
  • 20–30. The number of years in an average black bear’s lifespan
  • 27. The number of states — including NC — where folks can legally hunt black bears. 
  • 70%. The percentage of hunters who use pooches, like the Plott Hound, NC’s official state dog, to strike + tree bears. 
  • DYK black bears are the smallest of the three bear species? Their height + weight depend on factors like sex, age, and season — which affects how much they eat. Black bears typically measure 5–6 feet long with an average height of 2-3 feet when standing on all fours. Adult males typically weigh 200–700 pounds, while the average weight for adult females is 100–300 pounds.

Though typically not aggressive, it can still be frightening to see a bear. To avoid problems, officials recommend following six basics from BearWise, a network of wildlife officials + researchers from around the Southeast working to help humans and bears live together more harmoniously. These include: 

  • Never approaching or feeding them 
  • Never leaving pet food out 
  • Securing bird feeders when bears are out + active 
  • Securing garbage + recycling 
  • Cleaning and storing grills after use 
  • Alerting your neighbors when you see a bear in your neighborhood

Officials discourage folks from calling 911 for bear sightings. Instead, contact the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Wildlife Helpline at (866) 318-2401.