Bears are emerging from their winter dens hungry and on the move in search of food. This primal need can cause them to conflict with homeowners and residents using parks and other unimproved areas. There have already been sightings in western Prince William County.

The Department’s Animal Control Bureau, in an effort to avoid problems, offers the following tips and suggestions for dealing with hungry bears:

  • Remove food sources that might attract hungry bears. This includes bird feeders, garbage, pet food, outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees and beehives. Virginia’s bears are primarily active and very hungry from late March through May, so temporarily removing these items, or scrupulously cleaning them if you cannot remove them, should help.
  • Do not store 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. If you do not have a trash collection service, take your garbage to the Landfill frequently (twice a week or more). If you do have a trash collection service, put your garbage out the morning of the pickup rather than the night before.
  • Take down your birdfeeders temporarily until the bear moves on.
  • Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and extremely efficient, proven deterrent to bears, around dumpsters, gardens, beehives or other potential food sources.

Bears generally avoid humans but, in their search for food, they may wander into suburban areas. What should you do if you see a bear? Keep a respectful distance. If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Bring your pets inside and leave the immediate area.

If you see a bear cub in the area, do NOT try to remove it from the area or “rescue it.” Female bears – who may give birth while hibernating in the winter den – will wander to find food, usually with her cubs in tow. If she feels nervous, she will typically send her cubs up a tree and leave the area.

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. Even the inadvertent feeding of nuisance bears is illegal.

If you experience a bear problem after taking appropriate preventative steps, please notify the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regional office. Visit the website at www.dgif.virginia.gov for more information.

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