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

Question: Why has the man responsible for killing the three bears in Woodfin not been arrested? How has he been able to kill so many other animals and no legal actions taken against him? There is no hunting allowed in Woodfin. Also, what kind of time or penalties is he facing?

My answer: Well, this certainly sounds like the worst children’s story of all time.

Real answer: A man has been charged in the case, but he has not been physically arrested, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 

John Robert Bunkley Jr. 26, faces numerous misdemeanor charges in the case, and yes, while he has been charged, he has not been physically arrested, according to WRC spokesperson Branden D. Jones.

“This is consistent with how we conduct our investigations/arrest/charges,” Jones said via email. “None of the offenses required a mandatory physical arrest.”

Bunkley’s court date is set for March 9 in Madison County. 

“The violations occurred in Madison County, but the dumping occurred in Buncombe County,” Jones explained.

Remains of a mother bear and two cubs were found in Woodfin, and Wildlife Resources Commission officers began investigating in early December. // Photo provided by Help Asheville Bears

As we reported in December, the case sparked outrage in Woodfin and the Asheville area, and it highlighted the serious issue of wildlife poaching in the area, according to the Wildlife Resources Commission. The Help Asheville Bears (HAB) advocacy group offered a $5,000 reward in the case, posting a video on its Facebook page and noting that the bears “were skinned, their paws were removed, and their entrails were placed in a large plastic bucket that was left with their remains.”

The charges against Bunkley are misdemeanors, so he is not facing jail time.

Jones provided this list of charges, and the potential fines and/or penalties:

  • One count take a sow bear with cubs at its side – Class 1 misdemeanor. Potential $2,000 fine, two-year hunting license revocation.
  • Two counts over limit bear – Class 1 misdemeanor. Potential $2,000 fine, two-year hunting license revocation.
  • One count attempt to take deer closed season, Class 3 Misdemeanor. Potential fine: $200.
  • One count littering charges, class 3 misdemeanor. Potential $250 Fine.
  • Three counts unlawful transportation charges – class 1 misdemeanor. Potential $2,000 fine, two-year hunting license revocation.
  • Three counts unlawful possession charges – Class 1 misdemeanor. Potential $2,000       fine, two-year hunting license revocation.
  • Three counts failure to register – Class 3 misdemeanor. Potential $35 fine.
  • Three counts failure to validate – Class 3 misdemeanor. Potential fine $35.
  • One count no hunting license – Class 3 misdemeanor. Potential $35 fine.
  • One count no e-stamp – Warning.       
  • One count no big game license – Class 3 misdemeanor. Potential $35 fine.
The city of Asheville provided this timeline of the water outage over the holiday season of 2022 and into January 2023.

Question: I’ve had a couple of folks ask me if the city will reimburse water customers on their bills for days of no service, and why or why not. Also, they want to know, will there be any reimbursement of businesses for lost income?

My answer: I mean, who among us doesn’t enjoy paying for a service we don’t actually receive or use? It’s almost as fun as realizing you’ve been paying for HBO for six months and not watching it because you didn’t know you had it. Ahem, referring to someone else here, of course …

Real answer: I suspect a lot of folks are going to be fighting with the city of Asheville over water billing after the holiday season outage that spanned almost two weeks. Theoretically, you should not have been charged if you weren’t receiving water.

“Water service is measured by each customer’s meter,” city of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said via email. “If no service is provided, as was the case temporarily for many residents during the outage, the water bills for that property will reflect this.”

Miller noted that other items on bills will remain unchanged, such as charges for sewer service from the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County.

I suspect business owners are in for an even tougher haul.

“With regard to other financial losses, the city is in the process of reviewing the water outage through both an internal after-action analysis, as well as through the recently formed independent review committee,” Miller said. “Claims for these losses may be submitted to the City’s Risk Management Division, and will be evaluated based upon the results of these reviews.”

I also reached out to Dan Pliszka, a consultant with expertise in risk management who has worked in North Carolina. Pliszka said that without knowing specific details of businesses’ outages and what precisely happened with the city’s handling of the outage, it’s tough to speculate.

An Act of God

“The bottom line is, in some way the Asheville water people had to have been negligent in how they ran the system,” Pliszka said. “I know it was really cold around Christmas. If it was freezing and stuff like that that caused the outage, they’re probably not liable for it — the old ‘act of God’ thing.”

In short, the “act of God” clause in many insurance policies and regulations offers municipalities broad coverage for liability, he said. So, lawyers, insurance workers, or business owners would have to prove some negligence on the city’s part.

“It’s got to come down to some kind of negligence — they knew or should’ve known of a condition that was going to cause this outage for an extended period and didn’t do anything about it,” Pliszka said. “But if it just happened, especially if it’s the result of cold, there probably is no liability.”

Also, if the city were to make a payout, “then that opens the door that anytime something happens, they would have to pay,” Pliszka said.

Business owners are more likely to get some funding for losses through their own business insurance, he added.

“If I were them, I probably wouldn’t be holding my breath for some kind of settlement (from the city), at least not some kind of voluntary settlement,” Pliszka said.

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

2 replies on “Answer Man: Court date in mother bear and cubs mutilations case? Reimbursement on water bills for outage period?”

  1. The Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD) uses the water meter reading for billing. Customers will only be charged based on the water that was served.

  2. Bears
    I see that none of the atrocities Bunkley committed are considered more than misdemeanors. If we can’t jail him, here are other things that should be enforced.
    1. Leave him in a bear den NO, NO leave him in a coyote den (no weapons of course).
    2. Mandatory psychiatric incarceration

    Seriously, I’m calling on all of our officials to evaluate our criminal code, so that an offense of this magnitude can be dealt with for what it is rather than a list of misdemeanors

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