BECKLEY, W.Va. — The Bear Project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said efforts to capture a bear involved in a recent encounter with an Upshur County woman is being scaled back.
“One of the things we typically do when we try to catch a bear is leave the traps set for three to five nights,” said DNR Biologist Colin Carpenter. “The longer we leave a trap set, the better the odds of catching a bear, but the longer we leave it set the better the odds of catching the wrong bear.”
Biologists have been able to determine through an investigation of the incident in the Tennerton community the bear they are looking for is a yearling male. He’s also on the verge of being forced out of the area anyway and chances of catching him will go way down. They’ve had six traps set for almost a week after the incident, but those are being pulled.
“We’ve got the breeding season approaching,” said Carpenter. “We’ve got a sow with two cubs–which are actually now yearling males–and she’s going to run them off as she comes into heat and is about to breed again. These yearlings will be off on their own very soon looking for their own new home range.”
Carpenter said they will leave one trap in the yard where the incident happened, but all others have been pulled. He’s encouraging neighbors to be on the lookout as well for bear activity. Chances of catching the culprit bear will diminish greatly in the coming days.
In the meantime, Carpenter encouraged anyone living in anywhere bears are known to be present to be vigilant about what potential food is left outside.
“This is not the type of situation we want to see develop because what we end up with is a sow which teaches successive generations to forge on human food,” he said.
He added however, violent encounters between black bears and humans are rare.
“If you look at the density of people and black bears in the eastern United States, if black bears truly were aggressive we would see a lot more negative incidents occurring,” he said. “Every year in the last couple of decades those incidents have increased, but we have also seen an increasing human population and we have some of the highest black bear numbers in the eastern U.S. in 100 years.”
Among Carpenter’s suggestions for keeping black bears out of the yard are putting out the trash on the morning it is to be picked up, putting out only what pet food your pet will eat and not leave it out overnight, and to take down bird feeders or any other source of potential food which would attract a bear. Typically once the food source is removed, but bear will move on.
“We don’t want bears to become habituated to people,” he said. “We don’t want bears hanging out in neighborhoods who have lost all fear of people because one, they’ve never had a bad experience around people and two they know around people they can always get food.”
Carpenter suggested this website or your local DNR office for any future questions about bears in your neighborhood.