Black bears spotted in Waynesboro; what to do if you encounter a bear

Black bears spotted in Waynesboro; what to do if you encounter a bear
Black bears (Source: Wildlife Center of Virginia)

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — It’s the time of year again when you might see some black bears out and exploring parts of the Shenandoah Valley.

With around 17,000 black bears in Virginia, it’s no surprise that there have been some spotted in Waynesboro’s Coyner Springs Park, especially as the weather warms up.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia said you’re most likely to see yearling bears, which were born in January of 2020 and are now grown up enough to be on their own.

“They’re not particularly dangerous. As long as you don’t corner them or frighten them. They’re not aggressive, I’ll put it that way. They’re just out poking around, so seeing one is not a problem. It’s a privilege,” Ed Clark, president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said.

However, Clark said they can be become a problem if you leave food out, run away, or approach them.

“It’s against the law to feed them, so even if you want them around, if you get caught feeding a bear, you are creating a problem that is very likely to end up in the bear’s death, but it’s also likely to end up in your prosecution,” Clark said.

Coyner Springs Park does allow dogs to be leash-free, but the Wildlife Center said it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash in or near the wooded areas so they don’t chase after a bear.

If you do see a bear, Clark says not to panic.

“Just stand your ground, maintain eye contact with the bear, make a lot of noise to scare the bear away. They’re almost always going to be more frightened of you than you possibly can imagine being of them and so, they’re going to typically take off,” he said.

And if you come across a mama bear with her cubs, you’ll want to be cautious.

“They’re struggling to keep up with their mother and they’re not always very good at it, so sometimes mom can get out ahead of them. Just pay attention, don’t get between them, if you do get between them, get out from between them as quickly as you can,” Clark said.

He added that these bears are just out doing what nature tells them to do, so respect that they’re wild animals and let them do what they need to do.

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