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Bears cause stir in Bassett
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A mother bear and two cubs can be seen Wednesday in a tree on Campbell Court Road in Bassett. A third cub that was in the tree is not pictured. (Bulletin photo by Vicky Morrison)
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

By VICKY MORRISON - Bulletin Staff Writer

A bear sighting in the neighborhood prompted Campbell Court Elementary School to cancel recess and keep students indoors on Wednesday.

Campbell Court Principal Pat Walmsley said she kept the students inside for the day “just as a precaution.”

The incident “is not the first time we’ve seen bears nearby,” she said, “but we felt that that was the safe thing to do.”

Walmsley said a former school board member informed her of the bears’ proximity.

“I personally had been up and down the road, checking the property” of the school and the neighborhood, Walmsley said. Extra personnel were on hand when students left at the end of the school day, and parents were informed through a school messenger service, she added.

Shaun Adams, who lives on Campbell Court with his wife, Ramona, said he spotted a mother bear and her three cubs at his house late Wednesday morning.

Adams said he was working outside on his house’s wraparound porch when he saw the bears “walk down my (front) drive.” The mother bear first spotted the Adams’ dog, Rebel, who was fenced in a lot beside the house. The bear charged toward Rebel, but Adams said he called out, causing the bear to charge toward him.

He said he feared the bear would hurt his dog. However, he didn’t have anything to protect himself.

“I was out there working (and) didn’t have anything but tools in my hand,” said Adams, who is self-employed as a contract house remodeler.

Armed with only a hammer, Adams found himself 12 feet from the bear. He lucked out when the sound of the cubs’ claws against tree bark distracted the mother bear, he said.

The cubs, clearly frightened by Rebel’s barking, had scurried up a tree in Adams’ front yard. The mother bear followed after them, he said.

Adams called 911 and deputies who responded advised him to stay inside. They told him that animal control officers were on the other side of the county, Adams said.

They also told him there wasn’t much that could be done to remove the bears other than to wait for them to leave on their own.

As he waited, Adams began putting honey he had harvested from hives on his property into jars. He said he suspected the bears might have come for the honey.

However, the bears seemed unaware of any sweets. “They laid around like they were resting all day,” Adams said.

They played some among the tree branches, and the mama bear even drifted off to sleep while her cubs yawned and sat around.

The bears camped out in the tree, which is about 30 feet from Adams’ porch, for about two and half hours. At times, they would climb down from the tree, appearing to want to leave. Whenever Rebel barked, however, the cubs fled right back up the tree, causing the mother bear to follow, Adams said.

Adams ultimately moved his dog away from the bears. Once he did, it was only a few moments before the bears went on their way.

Both Adams and Walmsley said the bears’ presence made for “an interesting day.”

“Now I know the expression of ‘mama bear.’ She was ready for anybody if they were going to bother her babies,” Walmsley said.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, black bears are found in 92 of the state’s 98 counties and often are seen in residential areas. The department advises the public to maintain a “respectful distance” from bears and says they generally tend to “move on quickly.”

“If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Do not approach, and bring your pets inside to provide the bear a clear path to leave your property,” the VDGIF website says.

The department said to clear property of any “attractants, communicate with neighbors to resolve community bear concerns and learn (facts) about bears.”

Adams said he planned to move his bee hives Wednesday night after seeing the mother bear look directly at them as she left.


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