Watch: Black bear takes casual stroll in Asheville, North Carolina, spooks tourists

Watch: Black bear takes casual stroll in Asheville, North Carolina, spooks tourists


Will Hofmann
 USA TODAYplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Cub bear roams downtown Asheville parking lot, scares NJ touristA cub bear roams a downtown Asheville parking lot on Oct 19, 2023.

People in downtown Asheville, North Carolina got a surprise when they spotted a young black bear roaming the streets near City Hall.

The cub took the sidewalk near the Buncombe County Family Justice Center, leaping over a fence into the parking lot behind the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.

That’s when the bear was sighted by two visitors to the area: Adam and Carol Lambersky.

They were preparing to head to Sierra Nevada Brewery, when the young bear walked by their car’s open driver-side door — where Adam Lambersky was sitting.

Just before reaching the door, a bystander yelled: “There’s a bear!”

Adam Lambersky shut the door and the cub, frightened by the sound, scurried away from the car.

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“I expected to see that up in Pennsylvania, not down in Asheville!” Adam Lambersky said of the experience.

The Lamberskys were visiting from New Jersey with this trip being their first to Asheville. Adam said it was definitely unexpected.

“It’s still a little scary — they’re still a little scary,” he said. “I guess he probably weighed 125 pounds.”

Carol Lambersky tried to find a correct number to call to report the cub bear, but wasn’t able to call before the bear had left.

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“I’m worried about him,” Carol Lambersky said.

After calling the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission after spotting the bear, the Citizen Times confirmed the bear had been reported to local wildlife authorities who respond to bear sightings.

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Bears are not uncommon in downtown Asheville

It is not too uncommon to spot bears in downtown Asheville.

Statewide, the Wildlife Commission estimates a population of 20,000 bears, with between 8,000 and 9,000 bears living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. The population in the mountains continues to rise by 3-5% annually, according to biologists.

Last month, the Citizen Times spoke to Special Projects Biologist Ashley Hobbs at the state wildlife commission regarding the increased number of bear sightings in the Asheville area.

“What we do know is that there is a high density of bears in Asheville and the population acts as a source for the surrounding populations,” Hobbs told the Citizen Times Sept. 29.

Regarding generational cycles, Hobbs said bears born in Asheville tend to establish territories in the surrounding areas as adults.

Hobbs said it’s hard to pin down an exact number of how many bears are in Asheville specifically because they tend to travel outside the city at various points of the year. But she said the bear population in the area “has an abundance of natural resources available.”

However, she did warn that black bears, as “opportunistic omnivores,” require a diversity of forest types and ages like the ones in the region. Hobbs said it’s “important to keep these forests from becoming fragmented by development so that bears can safely travel from one resource to another without major risk of vehicle collisions or encountering intolerant humans.”

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BearWise is a national educational program developed by bear biologists and employed by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Hobbs said to follow six “BearWise Basics” to “keep bears wild and encourage them to utilize their natural food resources.” These include:

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

For instructions on how to use bear spray and more guidelines on how to handle black bear encounters, visit bearwise.org.

Will Hofmann is the Growth and Development Reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Got a tip? Email him at [email protected].

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