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State warns of rise in bear traffic
Sightings of black bears, such as those shown above, are becoming more common in Virginia, according to the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. (Bulletin file photo)
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Black bear sightings are becoming more common in Virginia, which can create problems for residents, according to the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).
A highly adaptable and intelligent animal, bears can live close to people, who may not know they are nearby, the DGIF said in a news release. Generally, bears are attracted by the smell of food. The most common food attractants are birdfeeders, garbage, and pet food; however, outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees and beehives also can attract bears, the release said.
Several residents reported seeing bears last year, including one that made its way to uptown Martinsville in June, according to previous Bulletin reports. Another was spotted near Campbell Court Elementary School in Bassett in September, prompting school officials to cancel recess and keep students inside.
The DGIF offers the following tips to anyone who encounters a bear:
• Keep a respectful distance. In most cases, the bear will move on quickly.
• If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Do not approach it, and bring pets inside to give the bear a clear path to leave the property.
What should you do if a bear is consuming bird seed, garbage, pet food, etc. on your property?
• The best way to encourage the bear not to return is to remove the food source.
• Do not store household trash, or anything that smells like food, in vehicles, on porches or decks.
• Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement.
• Take your garbage to the landfill frequently.
• If you have a trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.
• Take down your birdfeeder for three to four weeks after a bear visits.
• Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and efficient proven deterrent to bears, around Dumpsters, gardens, beehives and other potential food sources.
• If addressed quickly, this situation can be resolved almost immediately after you remove the food source. Sometimes, the bear may return searching for food, but after a few failed attempts to find it, the bear will leave your property.
What should you do if you see a bear cub on your property?
• Until May, sows with cubs typically are in dens. Most small bears people see in early spring are not actual “baby bears” but yearlings (less than 12 months old). They do not need their mothers to survive.
• If a small yearling is on your property, the worst thing you can do is feed it. Yearlings need to learn how to find natural foods and not become food conditioned or habituated to humans.
• Once females leave their dens with 4- to 5-month-old cubs, they typically will travel in close groups unless something makes the female nervous. If you see a small cub, do not try to remove it from the area or “save it.” When sensing danger, a female bear will typically send her cub(s) up a tree and leave the area. In such cases, the female will almost always return to gather up the cub(s) when no people or pets are around.
Remember that a bear is a wild animal, and that it is detrimental to the bear, as well as illegal in Virginia, to feed a bear under any circumstances, the DGIF said.
If you experience a bear problem after taking appropriate steps of prevention, call the NEW Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003.
To report wildlife crime, call 1-800-237-5712.