Asheville's urban bears
Black bears in North Carolina are waking up and foraging for food.
If you leave your windows rolled down, they might just look for snacks in your car.
Last week, two black bears climbed through the open windows of a Toyota Prius in North Asheville and left with what appeared to be a bag of food, according to The Citizen Times.
"This is what happens when you leave groceries in your car with the windows partially open ... young bears bust the window, climb in and help themselves," Mark Lewis posted on Facebook with a video of the bears in the car.
As of May 6, Lewis' video had more than 3,300 views since it was posted on May 2.
"Bears are pretty smart to begin with, and they're really good at remembering where they got food before," N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist Mike Carraway told The Citizen Times. "So if somebody left the car windows open and they just went to McDonald's and the bear finds it, they're going to start looking at every car as a potential meal."
On the other side of the state in eastern North Carolina, Sarah Taggett caught a young black bear on video on East Carolina University's campus outside Todd Dining Hall.
Taggett's video, posted May 2, had more than 1,100 retweets and 2,000 likes as of May 6.
Habitat destruction and a rebounding black bear population in the state mean people might see more of wild residents.
Summer — particularly July and August — is when bears are on the move, according to wildlife officials.
Mature males seek females during this breeding period and mother bears drive off juvenile males who must seek their own territory
Years ago, sightings like these would have been rarer throughout North Carolina.
Before Europeans colonized the New World, black bears lived in all forested regions of North America and were abundant in the area that would one day become North Carolina, according to the wildlife commission.
But like mountain lions and gray wolves, black bears often were killed by early settlers. By the early 1900s, black bears were found only in the most remote mountains and coastal swamps of the state, fleeing the more heavily populated Piedmont region.
Deforestation from development, over-hunting and diseases contributed to the black bear decline.
In 1981, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission created its first Black Bear Management Program. Since then, the state’s bear population has grown dramatically.
But the black bear has made a remarkable comeback in population and in range in the last 30 to 40 years. As of the early 2000s, according to the wildlife commission, about 11,000 bears made their homes in North Carolina, occupying about 50 percent of the state’s total land area. From a coastal bear population of a little more than 2,000 bears in 1980, the eastern North Carolina bear population steadily has grown to about 10,000 in about 2008.