In Atlas Obscura, we find that Asheville, NC has a lot of very large urban wildlife, and the experts (of course!) are studying the issue of just how many bears can live in the city.
Over the past decade, Asheville has racked up all kinds of accolades: according to one list of fawning headlines, it’s “Fantastically Yoga-Friendly,” “One of America’s 12 Greatest Music Cities,” “The Biggest Little Culinary Capital in America,” “#1 Beer City USA,” and “America’s #1 Quirkiest Town.”
Somewhat more quietly, it’s also one of America’s Best Cities for Bears. They hang out near the local hospital, and at the storied Grove Park Inn. Mailmen regularly run into them on their routes. Last August, a bear broke into an Asheville man’s home and stole a stick of butter out of his kitchen trash. As part of its pre-show, the Fine Arts Movie Theater, in downtown, shows a photo of a curious black bear reading its marquee from across the street. “I never saw a black bear until I moved to the city,” Boll says. “Now, I’ll be driving and I’ll go, ‘There’s a bear in someone’s yard!’ or ‘Look at that bear, knocking over that trash can and taking the bag!'”
When we talk about urban wildlife, we’re usually referring to small, deft creaturesâ€”squirrels, pigeons, or other standbys that mind their own business and fade into the background. Your average city-dweller might catch a deer in their headlights every once in a while, or spot a raccoon digging through the trash. A bear is something of a different story. A male can weigh 600 pounds. That’s not the kind of creature you get used to seeing on your commute.
Somewhere around 8,000 black bears range around western North Carolina, and many of those make Asheville itself part of their meandering. According to the Urban-Suburban Bear Study, an ongoing project by the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina State University, these bears are very healthy, often well-fed enough to have twice as many cubs as your average scrappy mountain bear, and confident enough to den right outside of town.
After a couple of years of study, the researchersâ€”along with most of Asheville’s humansâ€”are wondering exactly how many bears the city can hold.
The democrats are probably working on registering the bears to vote.