NC’s bears are now opening car doors, creating costly and comical encounters

North Carolina’s bears have learned how to open car doors, though the adapted skill is not working out as well as the animals might hope.

Twice in the past three weeks, bears have gotten into cars in communities west of Charlotte and couldn’t get out.

The latest example happened Wednesday in North Asheville, when a bear got in a woman’s unlocked car and totaled the interior after what may have been an hours-long stay, reported TV station WLOS.

Ashleigh Watkins told media outlets last week that she and her husband found out only after a Sheriff’s deputy knocked on their door to report a bear sitting in their car. “It actually opened the door and got stuck,” she told WLOS.

Fox Carolina reported the bear was panting badly when let out, convincing authorities it may have been in the car for quite some time.

Two weeks earlier, a family in Cashiers reported finding a bear in their SUV – after they heard it honking the horn, according to a story in the Sylva Herald. The bear shredded the vehicle’s interior, it was reported.

Watkins’ vehicle was also totaled from the inside and will have to be replaced, she told Fox Carolina.

The rash of car break ins is being blamed on a natural food source scarcity, and it will last another two weeks, said Blue Ridge Public Safety, a private security agency that serves Macon, Jackson and Transylvania counties. The bears are following their nose to wrappers, crumbs and candy left in vehicles, experts say.

Blue Ridge Public Safety, based in Sapphire, posted a warning about the break ins on Facebook. “Bears can open car doors,” said the post. “We have received several reports of bears destroying vehicles, so please take the time to lock your car doors.”

Another victim, Flo Smiley, responded to the agency’s post by noting locking the door doesn’t always work.

“Just to let you know, they can break your door handles if you lock your car or truck!” Smiley wrote. “We know because it happened to my husband’s truck.”

On Wednesday, Blue Ridge Public Safety sent out yet another warning, reporting it had received multiple calls of bears attempting to enter homes in western North Carolina. Homeowners are being advised to take precautions, including removing bird feeders and cleaning fallen fruit and nuts out of yards.