Banner Elk -- January 15, 2023: Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina has been named the first "BearWise" campus in the country. The designation, which is given by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, recognizes the college's efforts to promote coexistence between humans and bears.
The college has implemented a number of measures to reduce human-bear conflicts, such as installing bear-resistant trash cans and providing education to students, staff, and faculty on how to properly store food and trash. These efforts have resulted in a significant decrease in bear sightings on campus.
In addition to promoting coexistence, the college has also made a commitment to bear conservation. The college's outdoor education program includes a bear ecology course, and the school's Bobcat Club, an organization that focuses on conservation and sustainability, has organized multiple bear-related projects and events.
Lees-McRae College President, Dr. Barry Buxton, said in a statement, "We are honored to receive this designation and proud of the efforts of our students, staff, and faculty to promote coexistence and conservation of bears. We believe that it is important for humans to coexist with bears in their natural habitats and we hope that other institutions will follow our lead."
The BearWise program is part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts and promote conservation of black bears, which are native to the state. Other colleges and universities in North Carolina are encouraged to follow Lees-McRae's example and take steps to become BearWise campuses as well.
In conclusion, Lees-McRae College has set an example for other colleges and universities by being named the first "BearWise" campus in the country. The college's efforts to promote coexistence and conservation of bears is commendable and should be emulated by other institutions.