Don’t feed or pet the bears, residents advised

Published 8:30 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Don’t try and pet the bears. That’s the first suggestion issued by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. As we head toward the summer months, Wildlife officials say we’ll see more bears in Lunenburg County. The biggest problem with that happens when some residents decide it’s a good idea to walk right up and try to pet them.

These are not teddy bears. These are wild animals. Mating season is coming into effect, with male black bears sometimes traveling long distances to find a mate. This is also the point where 16–18-month cubs are forced to venture out on their own as their mother runs them off. When they leave, they sometimes need to travel long distances to settle into a territory and secure food sources. That said, there’s a good chance that, if you spend time outdoors June through August, you could encounter a black bear.

Typically, black bears are naturally scared of people, but will wander off into neighborhoods on the hunt for food in garbage cans, in pet food dishes that are left outside, and even in bird feeders.


According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, there are things you can do to be bear-wise. 

Never try to feed or approach a bear for any reason. Choosing to offer bears food – intentionally or unintentionally – is actually against Virginia law, so be sure to be vigilant in cleaning up food waste and ensuring no food is left behind at picnics and barbecues. Ensure you are securing all trash in a bearproof container.


Although it’s fun to watch the birds feed, removing bird feeders during the summer months is usually a good idea. Bird feeders can be swapped for the summer with beautiful wildflowers to attract honeybees and pollinators. Feed your pets indoors, and if that is not possible, ensure you clean up leftovers promptly.

Always clean grills after use, and store them in a closed off space not accessible by bears such as a locked shed. Lastly, ensure you keep your dogs on a leash so as not to accidentally scare any nearby bears. 

According to Katie Martin, Biologist at the Virginia Department of Wildlife, food trash brings more complaints than anything. “The biggest key for not having bears in close proximity to a home or neighborhood causing trouble is to make sure all potential food sources are secured. Keeping trash either indoors, in a locked or secured shed, or in a bear resistant container prior to pickup is one of the best things residents can do to prevent bears from causing trouble. Bears have an incredible sense of smell, so cleaning garbage cans out after use to remove trash odors is extremely helpful.”

Working together with neighbors and your community to ensure negative bear interactions are at a minimum is important. Martin states, “If a few residents are following the BearWise basics and have all their attractants cleaned up and secured, but someone else on the street is not following these practices, it can cause issues for the neighborhood. Thus, it’s critical to talk to your neighbors and ensure everyone is following these best practices to avoid negative interactions while still getting to see bears in the wild.”

For questions about bears, to report bear issues, or any other wildlife conflict, you can contact the toll free Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 1-855-571-9003, or visit or