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‘Sad whimper’ leads to ‘giant eyeballs’ of bear in Asheville woman’s backyard

By Janice Limon

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WYFF) — A woman who heard a “sad whimper” while sitting on her back porch got a big surprise when she went to investigate: A full-grown bear had made a den in her backyard.

Casey Vandergrift, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, said she at first thought it was an injured animal when she heard the sounds earlier this week.

“It was a giant bear,” she told the group Help Asheville Bears, or HAB. “I thought it was a dying dog, I mean it was just a sad whimper.” That’s when she reached out to the group.

HAB is dedicated to protecting bears and teaching the public how to coexist with the animals.

The group posted about the encounter on its Facebook page and shared the video with WYFF News 4.

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The bear in Vandergrift’s yard had, in fact, made a den in an area of dense brush and kudzu.

HAB founder Jody Williams, who personally examined the area, said the bear is possibly a female who may be denning up in early preparation for the colder weather to maybe give birth to cubs in January.

“It was the absolute perfect spot for a bear to den up,” he said, adding that pregnant females den up first, before males, which led to his speculation about possible impending births.

“It was a very big surprise because I had my headlamp on and I was romping through the brush, looking for a dog, and then it was two giant eyeballs, like, giant skull of a bear,” Vandergrift said.

She said she has a unique piece of property that she calls an oasis among a neighborhood of tightly built houses.

“It was hers before it was mine,” Vandergrift said of the bear.

Williams said Vandergrift did an amazing job in peacefully coexisting with her brand new “neighbor” that she is letting the bear stay and keep her cozy little home.

Williams said HAB will continue to monitor the bear and share any updates as they develop.

“Who knows, he said. “We might just be sharing news of her giving birth to her new cubs in January — stay tuned.”

“We strongly believe that sharing general bear education as well as stories such as this bear making a den is an incredibly important part of helping the community get to know and become familiar with the bears in our own backyards,” Adam McMillian, with HAB, said. “Having a better understanding of them is so key to peacefully coexisting with them — and all wildlife for that matter.”

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