ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wants to remind Virginians to keep bears wild.
Virginia is home to a healthy population of black bears throughout the state, so it is common for people to have interactions with them.
VDGIF warns that it is incredibly important to learn the facts about black bears in order to coexist and prevent conflicts.
Local residents may not even know bears are living close by, and some bears wander into residential areas due to the smell of food surrounding the homes.
The most common food attractants are bird feeders, garbage and pet food; however, outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees and beehives will also attract these animals.
To reduce the chances of a bear visiting your neighborhood or property
- Secure your garbage in bear-resistant trash cans, or store it in a secure building.
- Take down bird feeders if there are bears in your area.
- Do not put meat scraps in your compost pile.
- Do not leave pet food outdoors.
- Keep your grill clean.
- Advise your neighbors to follow the same steps.
- Install electric fencing around dumpsters, gardens, fruit trees, beehives or other potential food sources.
If you do encounter a bear
- Do not run, it could prompt the bear to chase.
- Make sure that your dog is leashed.
- Keep a respectful distance.
- Bring your pets inside if possible.
- If the bear hasn't seen you, calmly leave the area while making slight noises so the bear will not be surprised by you.
- If the bear has seen you, slowly back away while facing it. Speak softly so the bear will not feel threatened.
If you see a bear cub on your property
- Do not feed it.
- Do not try to move it.
Always 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.
If you experience a bear problem after taking the appropriate steps of prevention, call the Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003.