Outdoors: West Virginia DNR issues bear reminder

Photo Courtesy West Virginia Division of Natural Resources The Division of Natural Resources has warned residents that bears will be coming out of hibernation and will be looking for food. Stay away from them and don’t feed the bears, the division said.

CHARLESTON – Spring is here and black bears will be coming out of their winter hibernation and looking for food, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said.

Feeding black bears is a violation of state law and is a misguided disservice to the animal, Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the Wildlife Resources Section, said.

“Some people will set out food to get a closer look at this often-secretive animal,” Carpenter said. “Although it may be tempting to feed scraps to a bear that wanders near your home, don’t risk it. This practice only strengthens a bear’s association of humans and food. These situations generally lead to bears that lose their natural fear of humans and can lead to property destruction or personal injury. At that point, the bear may need to be destroyed. Remember, in most cases, a fed bear is a dead bear.”

Bear movements are tied to food sources. Bears that roam around residential areas in search of food are less likely to stay if they do not find anything to eat. The key to avoiding human-bear conflicts is to remove or secure food attractants such as unsecured trash cans and pet food bowls before a bear finds them.

Because bears are becoming more active during this time of year, chances of an outdoor encounter increase.

DNR recommends taking the following actions if a bear is encountered:

* Remain calm.

* Don’t approach a bear.

* Don’t run from a bear.

* Don’t climb trees to escape a bear.

* Give the bear a clear escape route.

* Quietly back away and leave the area.

* If attacked, immediately fight back.

* Don’t feed bears.

“Be aware that bears are leaving their dens in March and will readily take advantage of human food sources,” Carpenter said. “Black bears should always be appreciated from a distance to ensure the safety of both humans and the bears.”

More information about how to handle black bear encounters can be found at www.wvdnr.gov.