News Release

For Immediate Release
Jaime L. Sajecki, 804-652-7921

NOTE: This news release was distributed on 3/26/2014. The information below may no longer be the most up-to-date information available, or may pertain solely to events that occurred in the past. Please contact the person listed as the contact person for this release for the most current information.

Becoming Bear Aware!

With a healthy, growing black bear population, bear sightings are becoming common throughout much of Virginia. A highly adaptable and intelligent animal, bears can live close to people. While local residents often do not know bears are living close by, some bears may wander into residential areas due to the smell of food around homes. The most common food attractants are birdfeeders, garbage, and pet food; however, outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees, and beehives can also attract bears.

What should you do if you see a bear?
• Enjoy and 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, and bring your pets inside to provide the bear a clear path to leave your 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 3-4 weeks after the bear visits.
• Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and extremely efficient proven deterrent to bears, around dumpsters, gardens, beehives, or 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, will leave your property.

What should you do if you see a bear cub on your property?
• Until May, sows with cubs are typically in dens. Most small bears people see in early spring are not actual "baby bears" but yearlings (>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 will typically travel in close groups unless something makes the female nervous. If you see a very 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.

Preventing problems with bears is a shared responsibility between the citizens of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 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. Feeding bears may cause them to lose their natural distrust of humans, creating situations where bears may become habituated and sometimes aggressive towards people. Thus, human and bear safety is the responsibility of all residents of the Commonwealth.

You can help manage the Commonwealth's black bear population and Keep Bears Wild. Make sure your property is clear of attractants, communicate with your neighbors to resolve community bear concerns, and learn about bears, one of the most amazing, intelligent wildlife species in Virginia. If you visit outdoor recreation areas in bear country, insist that the area supervisors manage their trash properly. If you experience a bear problem after taking appropriate steps of prevention, please call the NEW Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003.

Living with Bears in Virginia, a video produced by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, is available on the Department's website and provides tips for peacefully coexisting with bears. Please visit to view the video, print a brochure, read more about bears in Virginia, and view other useful links to bear information.

Remember, if you live in Virginia, you live in bear country. Let's work together to Keep Bears Wild!

To report wildlife crime call 1-800-237-5712.