Bears are hungry this time of year, but there are several steps people can take to minimize the chance of an unpleasant or dangerous encounter with them. // Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: It seems the National Park Service has closed access to the Bull Mountain trails and that section of the Mountains to Sea Trail behind the Folk Art Center because of aggressive bear activity. It’s all roped off with police tape. This area is all in my backyard and I have not been updated about this, and I am wondering what happened and how long they might be keeping the trails closed? Is this “aggressive” bear a threat in any way to the adjacent neighborhoods?

My answer: I’m sure the bear will respect the boundaries of your neighborhood.

Real answer: The reader is correct about the closure.

“The park’s wildlife biologist and ranger staff enacted a short closure, and we’re looking to a June 30 potential reopening of that section of trail,” Blue Ridge Parkway spokesperson Leesa Brandon told me via email.

Bears are hungry this time of year.

“Early season bear encounters are not unexpected, but we’d like to avoid them,” Brandon said. “The beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s visitor season coincides with the early critical feeding season for bears. As a result, increased visitor traffic on park trails and in park campgrounds at the same time bears are looking for food can lead to these types of encounters.”

You may recall that the Folk Art Center area has some history with bear encounters. In September 2021 a couple having a picnic near the center had their dog off leash and a bear attacked the couple, as reported by WLOS-News 13.

“Likely aggravated by the dog, the bear acted defensively toward the dog and the couple,” the National Park Service said in a news release at the time. “Over the next several minutes, there were repeated attacks by the bear while the couple retreated with their dog to the safety of their vehicle.”

WLOS noted the couple drove themselves to Mission Hospital, where they were both treated for their injuries and released.

That incident stirred up a hornet’s nest of debate, with many people staunchly convinced the couple were to blame, mainly for having their dog off leash. That is a big no-no, and it can lead to unfortunate encounters.

In this case, the bear was never found, but it likely would have been euthanized if it had been caught.

So, as far as aggression with bears goes, Brandon said, “As always, anything you can offer your readers about bear safety and BearWise tips are appreciated.”

Visit for the full rundown, but here are a few tips to avoid unpleasant bear encounters, from the website:

  • Never feed or approach bears — Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches them to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.
  • Secure food, garbage and recycling — Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids or garbage.
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active — Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.
  • Never leave pet food outdoors — Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it.
  • Clean and store grills and smokers — Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.
  • Alert neighbors to bear activity — Share info on bears seen in the neighborhood, and how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.

Question: There are many cities in the United States where if people are illegally parked there is a boot put on their vehicle. In Asheville, what I think of as the predatory towing companies often tow vehicles to their fenced-in facilities. In the process of loading and unloading vehicles, there is the potential for damage. Why can’t the city of Asheville insist that illegally parked vehicles be booted rather than towed? At least you would know where your car is. For as much as these companies charge to get your car back, they could come to your vehicle, where you could pay the fine with your credit card and return your own vehicle to a drivable state.

My answer: A more effective tool would be “bearing.” Park in the wrong place and you come back to find a bear tearing up your vehicle’s interior. That would be a pretty effective deterrent, you’ve got to admit.

Real answer: City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller consulted with the city’s legal staff to provide an answer on this one.

The legal response hinges on the case King v. Chapel Hill, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed that municipalities can place certain restrictions on the towing of vehicles from private lots.

“In that case, the court found it was within a municipality’s powers to insist on warning signs being posted before vehicles are towed,” Miller said via email. “However, based on some language used by the court in King, it is unlikely the City of Asheville’s authority to place some restrictions on towing is broad enough to allow the type of ordinance your reader is asking about here.”

Specifically, the court said, “Protection of the real property rights and business interests of those who own or lease parking lots depends on having the ability to remove vehicles parked without permission.”

So, a booting-only ordinance “would seem to violate that principle,” Miller said. 

“In short, while the city can place some restrictions on the practice of towing, it is unlikely that we have the authority to ban the practice in favor of booting,” she said.

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at or 828-337-0941