I knew there were monster bears in North Carolina, but holy-moly. A local Haywood County hunt master Jeff Teague explains a good day in the western Carolina mountains last October.

“When we turned (the dogs) loose, we didn’t realize exactly how big it was,” Teague said. “I run down the trail and I saw the bear, and I could tell it was a big bear, but honestly, you couldn’t tell that it was 700 pounds. So, I got on the radio and yelled at Lucas (Teague) and Caleb (Henry), ‘Hey, the bear’s coming to you.’ It went up the mountain to them, and then Luke and Caleb were able to cut it off, and Caleb was able to get the kill shot on it.”

Caleb Henry is 21 years young, and he shot the bear with a .35-caliber rifle.

A local biologist came out and weighed the bear officially at 695 pounds, the heaviest bruin ever shot in the western North Carolina mountains.  The state-wide record bear, and what many believe to the world record black bear, weighed an amazing 880 pounds. It was killed in 1998 by Coy Parton in Craven County, NC.

The successful comeback of the American black bear in North Carolina represents one of wildlife management’s greatest achievements. Black bears were once restricted to remote areas and reached very low population levels in the mid-1900s. In 1971 there were fewer than 1,000 bears in the state. Since then, numbers have skyrocketed, and the black bear population is now estimated to be 15,000 animals.

Like all great wildlife conservation success stories, this one was funded largely by hunters’ dollars.