Black bear sightings in residential areas could mean bears are searching for food

Several bears roaming southwest Virginia in the past few days

ROANOKE, Va.- – Virginia is known as bear country. Dan Lovelace, with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that, lately, black bears are becoming more common in residential areas. 

There have been at least three bear sightings in the last few days. One in Max Meadows, another taking a stroll around the New River Valley Mall over the weekend and one was seen taking a swim in Smith Mountain Lake Sunday.

"Bears have been known to cross the lake, not just to cool off, but it's in the way when they were traveling, They cross it to get to the other side," said Lovelace. 

The department said bears mainly show up in residential areas in search of their natural food.

"This time of year, blackberries, cherries are just beginning to get ripe. In some cases, it may be limited in number of amounts. So, if those are not available, then they have to search a lot larger range to find enough food to eat during a given day," said Lovelace. 

To keep bears out of your neighborhood, remove trash and bird feeders, pick up pet food and clean the grill often. Never run from a bear or try to approach one. 

"We want to keep them as a wild animal and the best thing to do when a bear is sighted is to stay away from it. Don't try to approach it, don't try to feed it and just keep bears wild by giving them their space," said Lovelace. 

If you're having a bear-related problem, call the Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 855-571-9003. 

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