Not long after we moved to Pittsylvania County, a neighbor told us that we might see black bears occasionally wandering through the neighborhood. The encounters are increasing throughout Southern Virginia because the population of bears has been healthy and growing. The region could actually handle an even larger population, but people may not be comfortable seeing them more often.
And what does one do, I wondered? The answer, by the way, is to NOT run. Neither should you poke it with a stick. Instead, you should…
- Stay calm.
- Stop and back away slowly, facing the bear at all times.
- Do not run.
- Give the bear plenty of room to move along.
- If there is a good distance between you and the bear, yell and clap to establish authority
Below is a video by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries that goes into detail about how to respond and prevent negative encounters. They explain that a bear standing on his hind legs is not necessarily ready to attack–he’s probably just curious about his surroundings: trying to see better and sniff the air.
These omnivores are innately fearful of humans. Still, they are powerful wild animals and should be regarded as such.
- Black bears can weigh 90 – 500 pounds
- Black bears occupy a broader range of habitats than any other bear in the world
- In Virginia, most bears den in hollow trees, brush, and culvert pipes
How to reduce bear encounters in your own yard
- Don’t leave food outside.
- Feed your pets indoors or bring dishes in at night.
- Don’t leave garbage outside or use bear-resistant trash cans.
- Put away your bird feeders in early spring until November.
- Add lime to reduce odors of compost piles.
- Don’t leave your doors open, especially when you’re at home cooking.
You can also learn more about Living with black bears in Virginia on their website.
Have you seen a bear? Tell us your story!
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