A poor black bear has been spotted in Asheville, North Carolina, donning a Trump 2020 sticker on its collar. What irony, indeed.
The bear was napping on Shelia Chapman’s porch on July 31 when Chapman spotted the sticker. She took some photos, capturing the Trump 2020: Keep America Great sticker on the animal’s collar. Black bears in and around Asheville are collared as part of an urban/suburban black bear study with North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission that began back in 2014. Through this research, scientists live-trap the bears to place GPS collars on them to learn more about their ecology, survival rates, and movements. The sticker’s origins, however, are a mystery.
This isn’t the first time that a political sticker has appeared on a bear’s collar, either: In 2019, someone identified a bear with a similar Trump sticker in the same state. Community group Help Asheville Bears has put out a $5,000 reward for information that could identify the person (or persons) behind this. The group launched last year out of concern for the growing number of bears that were losing limbs to illegal foot traps, but its overall mission is the well-being of the creatures. It believes this is a separate bear from the one spotted last year because of the direction the sticker is placed.
The concern for its members isn’t that the sticker was political; it’s the sticker itself, said Jody Williams, a member. The bright colors—in this case, red, white, and blue—may help make the bear a target for hunters. It ruins the bear’s natural camouflage, Williams said. Plus, there’s the concern that comes with the fact that a human had to be close enough to the bear to put the sticker there in the first place.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of sticker it was,” Williams said. “It’s equally as wrong. It happens to be a Trump sticker, and that’s really what’s triggered everybody.”
The group has called this an act of “cruelty” and hopes to expose whoever is behind the stickering of these bears. The group’s Facebook post suggests someone in the study may be responsible, but Williams confirmed that the researchers have said they weren’t involved. Earther has reached out to North Carolina State University for more information.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission didn’t tell Earther if it was launching an investigation into whether one of its team members were responsible. Communications director Fairley Mahlum did say in an email that previous hand-feeding had likely habituated the bear, making it easier for someone to place the sticker on it.
“Habituation of bears poses a great risk and danger to the bear and the general public,” Mahlum said.
The irony of this all is that, well, President Donald Trump has been pretty anti-bear in his actions. For one, he recently finalized a rule to allow Alaskan hunters to shoot bears and their cubs while they hibernate in their dens. He’s a major proponent of the oil and gas industry, which is placing immense pressure on polar bear populations in the Arctic. And of course, he’s doing nothing about the climate crisis at large, which is one of the largest threats to wildlife everywhere. Trump is no friend of animals.
We can’t do much about Trump until the election, but locals can help catch this sticker culprit. The bears of North Carolina have enough stress with the illegal traps that can leave them injured. They don’t need Trump’s bad vibes, too.