Big Black Bears!
Bears on the Move
From the Tidewater region to the Alleghany Mountains, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) personnel are receiving numerous calls regarding bear sightings. With a healthy and growing black bear population, bear sightings during the summer months are not unusual in Virginia. However, bears showing up in areas where they have not been seen before can cause quite a stir.
Bears generally avoid humans, but they may wander into suburban areas. In Fairfax County, bears have been sighted in Fairfax, Herndon and Reston.
While the highest concentration of bears occurs in the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains and around the Great Dismal Swamp, bears are likely to be seen just about anywhere in Virginia. In a recent survey of VDGIF field staff, during the last four years bears have occurred in 85 of Virginia's 98 counties/cities.
Why Are Bears Appearing?
Summer is the breeding season for the black bear, a time of year when bears are naturally on the move. Adult males may roam well beyond their normal range searching for mates. Adult females breed every other year and give birth from mid-January to early February.
Females that have raised cubs for the past 1½ years are ready to breed again, and the young are ready to be on their own and establish new home ranges. While young females generally establish a home range near that of their mother, young males may need to roam widely in order to establish a new home range.
What Should I Do?
The most important response if you see a bear is to keep a respectful distance. A black bear would rather flee than have an encounter with people. Always remember that a bear is a wild animal, and never feed a bear under any circumstances. When bears lose their fear of people, trouble may not be far away.
The best way to encourage a bear to move on is to remove the food source that is attracting it. Do this by cleaning up or removing trash, pet food, livestock feed, grills and bird feeders. Do not store household trash in vehicles or on porches or decks. Take your garbage to the dump frequently. For trash collection, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.
If you do see a bear in your area, enjoy watching it from a distance. Report any problems by calling the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 804-367-1000. After hours or on weekends, call your local police or sheriff's office so the problem can be relayed to the state game warden assigned to your area.