Lees-McRae becomes first higher education institution to partner with BearWise

As of Friday, Nov. 18, Lees-McRae has officially become the first college or university to partner with BearWise. The organization, which was founded by bear biologists, works with states and communities throughout the United States to develop solutions that decrease the risk of bear encounters.

The goal of BearWise is to ensure that humans, bears, and pets can live in harmony, and all enjoy the outdoors safely. Due to the location of the Lees-McRae campus, bear sightings are relatively likely, and while the majority of these encounters go by without incident, it is important to understand a few easy ways to keep yourself and bears safe.

This educational component is where BearWise comes in. Their BearWise Basics and other educational materials can be the difference between communities of bears and humans that coexist, and ones that clash.

“The number-one thing BearWise does is educate the community on how to mitigate bear issues. This happens mainly through removing food sources, but also by giving educational materials on how to deal with an encounter with a bear in the wild,” Executive Director of Campus Operations HD Stewart said. “It’s a wonderful sight to see a bear in the wild and even more exciting to see one on our college campus. We know our bear population is naturally afraid of humans, but lose this fear if food is the reward. For the Lees-McRae College campus community to live responsibly and coexist with bears, we needed a plan.”

In addition to sharing informative emails across campus with tips and guidelines for bear interactions, the college has taken steps to mitigate bear issues on campus by developing new trash management policies. Employing trash compactors and bear-proof trash receptacles, as well as strategically placing trash cans away from residence halls and other heavy-traffic areas, has reduced the frequency of bear-human interaction.

During lunch on Friday, Nov. 18, BearWise had an information table set up in The Summit from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where they shared the BearWise Basics, distributed informational packets, and gave out prizes. Students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to visit the table and learn more about making the Lees-McRae community safer for bears and humans alike.

By Maya JarrellDecember 14, 2022
Campus LifeCommunity