Lynchburg, Va. (AP) – Virginia is revising its management plan for black bears in response to a growing population across the state.
Hunters killed about a 1,000 black bears annually a decade ago. That number has more than doubled since then, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The management plan, originally developed in 2001, addresses bear populations, habitat, human-bear interactions and bear-related recreation. It strives to keep bears and people apart.
"There's a really big emphasis on keeping bears wild,'' Jaime Sajecki, Game and Inland Fisheries bear project manager, told The News & Advance. "It's everyone's responsibility to coexist with wildlife.''
Hunters are the primary management tool for keeping the bear population in check, Sajecki.
Virginia originally implemented hunting regulations to reverse a decline in the bear population, most of which had been wiped out by 1900. Now, the regulations are being revised to address the bear population's growth.
After hibernation ends in April, a search for food occasionally sends bears into residential areas, where they can dine on birdseed and trash left in garbage containers.
Bears, which have high caloric needs, can obtain more calories from thrown-out food than feeding on berries in the wild, said Linda Masterson, author of "Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear County.''
"They make horrendous messes,'' Masterson told the newspaper. "They're just trying to feed.''
They also are intelligent, curious and powerful wild animals, she said.
"They're not aggressive toward people, but they are very inquisitive,'' Masterson said.
Sandy Herman had a close encounter with a bear in her backyard in Goode about two months ago. She at first thought she saw a large dog in the woods. A closer look revealed a black bear.
"It just terrified me,'' Herman told the newspaper.
Earlier this month, a black bear was captured in the Boonsboro area and relocated to national forest land about 100 miles away.
Biologists say bears do not pose an immediate threat to people.