ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – An Asheville black bear could soon be euthanized following an attack on Wednesday. Bear advocates said this attack was completely avoidable and are now calling on the public to get more educated.
“Wednesday evening around seven-thirty, a couple was picnicking on the hillside over here at the Folk Art Center with their german shepherd dog,” said Biologist for the National Park Service, Tom Davis. “The dog alerted on a bear that was coming down the hill. Unfortunately, the dog was not leashed and the dog ran toward the bear barking.”
Davis said that’s when the bear responded to the dog and a fight was pursued between the bear and the dog.
“The owners tried to intervene, separate the dog and the bear, and they were able to move the dog back into their car,” Davis said. “But during all of that, the bear attacked the gentleman.”
He added the man sustained some bite marks on his face and his hands as well as a dislocated shoulder. The woman involved was also scratched.
“Usually when a bear encounters a dog whether it’s leashed or unleashed, it’s not uncommon for them to bluff charge or stamp their feet or puff or make some kind of nasal noises,” Davis said. “This bear for whatever reason took a much more aggressive stance. It followed the couple all the way back to their car, it would not let them get in the car.”
Davis said when the woman involved got into the car, the bear and the man continued to fight until the man could get inside the car. Once that happened, Davis said the bear then attacked the car.
He said the National Park Service has been in contact with the North Carolina Resources Commission to talk about the incident given its location and proximity to visitors. This encounter then prompted the National Park Service to close certain trails to the public for hiking as a safety precaution.
“I think both parties agreed that this bear was a candidate that needed to be removed, unfortunately,” Davis said. “And really, it’s just an unfortunate situation.”
The park has since contacted a forensics specialist to extract DNA from the victim’s t-shirt. In the meantime, they’ve set out culvert and life traps for bears to try and catch the one responsible for the attack.
“If we are able to confirm that that bear was the one responsible for the encounter and the attack then we will then, unfortunately, have to put it down,” said Davis.
He added it’s their busiest time of year at the park and wants hikers to be aware to avoid future encounters
“Use good situational awareness. Look around you when you’re hiking,” Davis said. “Make sure you know what’s going on around you. Hike in a group. Talk to one another in a loud voice so a bear or another animal could hear you so there are no surprise bear encounters. And just keep your dog on a leash and under control.”
Jody Williams is the Founder of Help Asheville Bears.
He said this entire situation was preventable.
“This was total human ignorance and non-education,” Williams said. “You cannot have an unleashed dog in bear territory. It needs to be on a leash no longer than 6-foot, no retractables. They also had food. That’s huge. They can smell that from miles away.”
He said right now bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia.
“This is when the bears will eat twenty hours a day, 20-thousand calories a day preparing for Winter when there is no food,” Williams said. “So, attractants you’ve got to not have those out in bear territory.”
Williams also shared the sentiment that hikers need to be cognizant.
“When you’re hiking or out in the woods and in bear territory, you need to be very bear aware. Make noise. Clap, sing, hum. Always make noise so the bear knows you’re there,” Williams said. “They don’t want nothing to do with us. We’re not food to them.”
He said if more people were aware of the preventative measures, maybe this situation wouldn’t have to happen.
“There’s no reason to kill a bear for doing what a bear does because of human ignorance,” said Williams.
Davis said the National Park Service plans to re-evaluate on Monday when to officially open the trails back up to visitors.
That couple involved in the attack drove themselves to a local hospital Wednesday night, where they were both treated for their injuries and then were released.