WVDNR reports increased nuisance bear activity around state

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) — Due to an increase in nuisance bear activity being reported in West Virginia, the state Division of Natural Resources is asking residents to remove food and other attractants from around their homes to help reduce future incidents.

The WVDNR has received more than 1,600 bear complaints in 2020 and bears have been spotted looking for food in rural backyards, suburban neighborhoods and busy cities and around people.

“Once a bear gets a taste for human food, they can become more of a nuisance as they search it out,” said DNR wildlife biologist Colin Carpenter. “Trapping and relocating bears causing these problems is logistically impossible and biologically unsound. West Virginia has a statewide bear population, so there are no places to move large numbers of bears where they don’t currently exist.”

By taking extra precautions, residents can help prevent bears from becoming a nuisance.

Here’s how to avoid attracting bears to your neighborhood:

  • Remove all food attractants from around your home. Bears are attracted to and will eat anything that humans or other animals will eat. Take down all bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, squirrel feeders and deer feeders. Birds do not need to be fed during the summer.
  • Store livestock feed in bear-proof containers or inside a secure building.
  • If you have outside pets, only feed them a portion they will consume each time they are fed. Make sure food isn’t left outside overnight.
  • Keep trash cans in a garage or storage building until the morning of trash pickup.
  • Properly installed electric fencing is the best way to keep bears out of beehives and chicken houses.

Bears typically rely on the soft mast of summer (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) until hard mast (acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts) is available in the fall. However, because of the weak soft mast crop this year, bears are taking advantage of whatever human food is available. Bears prefer natural food when it is available, which is why nuisance activity usually subsides in the fall.

The WVDNR also would like to remind West Virginians that it is illegal to feed bears. Biologists recommend that people stay away from bears and not get between a bear and any kind of food.

“The simplest way to avoid attracting bears to your home is to remove all food attractants from around your home before a bear becomes a problem,” Carpenter said. “All West Virginians play a role in keeping bears wild.”

To learn more about living with bears in your neighborhood, visit www.bearwise.org.

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