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Biologist: Parts of WNC a de facto bear sanctuary

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ASHEVILLE, NC (AP) - A biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says much of Buncombe County is a de facto bear sanctuary as the human population continues to grow.

Biologist Mike Carraway tells the Asheville Citizen-Times that Asheville, Black Mountain and Highlands are hotspots for this year's complaints about encounters with just a few coming from rural areas.

Western North Carolina set a record for bear nuisance complaints last year with 430, partly because of a poor mast crop that forced bears to look for food from people. The tally so far this year is 275.

Carraway says the hunting season is the only tool for managing bears, but many bears live in areas where they can't be hunted. A conservative estimate of the mountain bear population is 5,000 to 6,000.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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