A group of concerned nature lovers in Asheville is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of anyone who may be behind the recent maiming of bears in the area.
But state biologists don’t believe the injuries are the result of a trapper. They have a different theory to explain several cases of bears that are missing one limb.
The group “Help Asheville Bears” says, so far, it has photos and videos of 11 confirmed cases in the last year of bears missing one limb, all from the Asheville area.
A three legged cub, skinny and weak, is the latest video posted to the Facebook site.
It’s hard to watch for nature lovers like Sandy and Darrel McClaren in Arden.
“I don’t understand why anybody would try to hurt a bear, a baby bear or any animal,” said Sandy McClaren.
They have come to love their own black bear visitor of 10 years, they named Timmy.
“In the summer time he will come and he will walk up these stairs and he’s a big bear, he’s not a little bear and he will eat the bird seed and he will sit down and clean himself and hang out,” said McClaren.
And so it was with Peaches, a mother bear in West Asheville that lost her limb this summer, also beloved by the people who live in her territory.
She’s the bear that began the push on Facebook to track down a suspected trapper.
Carol Morgan a business owner and member of “Help Asheville Bears” has helped secure the $50,000 reward money pledge.
“It just broke my heart. We all cried. How could somebody could do that to a bear,” said Morgan.
“Help Asheville Bears” says the group is not soliciting money from the public, and never has. The funds come from members who care.
Still, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission suspects a different cause. Car collisions with bears that have increased along with human development and more traffic.
“One there isn’t a trap out there that’s designed to pull off limbs of an animal. All the foothold traps are designed to hold that animal in place. Secondarily it doesn’t make sense that they would just pull off one paw. Financially it would be better if they took all 4 paws, the gallbladder, the pelt, the skull, the things that could be sold,” said Justin McVey with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
The McClarens are hoping, whatever the cause, Timmy is spared.
“We love him.”
The Wildlife Commission says it gets dozens of calls about car versus bear collisions each year. And while the agency does not record injured bears, it says there were 17 bear deaths from car crashes in Buncombe County last year and the same number in McDowell County.
Biologists say a missing limb is a natural result of that kind of trauma, if the bear survives.