Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Do Not Feed the Bears in Virginia!

With a healthy and growing black bear population, bear sightings during the spring and summer months are not unusual in Virginia. However, bears showing up in areas where they are not commonly seen can cause quite a stir. Summer is the breeding season for the black bear, a time of year when bears are naturally on the move. Adult males may roam well beyond their normal range searching for mates.

Bears are highly adaptable and intelligent animals and can learn to associate human dwellings with food. In their search for food, bears are attracted to residential areas by the smell of food around homes. The most common food attractants are bird feeders, garbage and pet food. Outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees and beehives can also attract bears. Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement. If you have a trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before. Take down your birdfeeder temporarily until the bear moves on.

Bears generally avoid humans, but in their search for food, they may wander into suburban areas. So, what should you do if you see a bear? The most important response is to keep a respectful distance. Black bears have a natural fear of humans and, in most cases, would rather flee than have an encounter with people. If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Do not approach or gather around the base of the tree. By bringing your pets inside and leaving the immediate area, you give the bear a clear path to leave your property.

Always remember that a bear is a wild animal and that it is detrimental, as well as illegal in Virginia, to feed a bear under any circumstances. Even the inadvertent feeding of nuisance bears is illegal. When bears lose their fear of people, property damage may occur. Bears habituated to humans may cause safety concerns and often times need to be destroyed.

If you do see a bear in your area, enjoy watching it from a distance. If you experience a bear problem after taking appropriate steps of prevention, please notify the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at (804) 367-1258.