Highlands ordinance: ‘don’t feed bears’

A black bear with its nose buried in a food container eats trash out of a residential garbage bag in summertime

Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer

According to the National Park Services, black bears become more active and bolder in the fall because they are on the hunt for food. The goal is to store up reserves and put on weight for winter hibernation. And while many people understand National Park Services’ warnings to “not feed the bears,” because “bears that eat human food can lose their preference for natural food sources and their fear of humans,” some people purposely feed bears or leave trash out. 

At the recent Town Board meeting, Highlands’ Mayor Pat Taylor presented an ordinance against feeding wild animals.

“I have been told that there are some owners of VRBO rentals who have encouraged their renters to throw leftover food into their yard so they can have a ‘bear photo experience’ while they are here, which means they are consciously feeding the bears in town.”

Bears have historically been more active and present in Highlands, but they are also spotted in Franklin and have even gone onto Main Street. The Town of Highlands has alreadymandated bearproof garbage cans throughout the town. 

The new ordinance reads:

a) Intentional feeding of bears is prohibited within the town of Highlands.

b) Leaving food, garbage or any other substance in any manner that attracts or allows bears access is prohibited in the Town of Highlands.

Sec. 3-5. – Violations.

Violations of this subsection shall be punishable by a civil penalty of two-hundred and fifty dollars ($250).

Sec. 3-6. – Enforcement.

Officers of the Highlands Police Department and/or North Carolina Wildlife Officers are responsible for enforcing this ordinance within the corporate boundaries of the Town of Highlands.