Va. bear roadkill deaths on the rise

Posted at 11:35 PM, Dec 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-04 23:35:51-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Virginia has seen an increase in the number of bears killed on the road in 2013.

So far, there have been 60 deaths this year, compared to 21 in 2012 according to Jaime Sajecki with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

"I think that's a pretty big understatement. That may be just half the number that's been reported," said Sajecki.

Sajecki told CBS 6 that the majority of the deaths are in the Western part of Virginia, but says there have been road kills on 64 west and 295 near the Eastern Henrico loop.

She said the reason is because of a food shortage.

"With the acorn crop being so low they've had to move a lot further to find food, so they're crossing over these big roads," she said.

Acorns are a primary food source for animals like bears, and experts say the weather has a lot to do with the shortage.

"This past spring we had a hard freeze and a very humid and wet spring," said Lee Walker, Director of Outreach and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Chad Phillips, who often drives Virginia's highways says he's noticed an increase of bears on the road.

"I've seen three in the last month. Two dead on the side of the road that had been hit by cars," he told CBS 6's Chelsea Rarrick.

Phillips said he's always cautious while out on the road but said he hopes this will encourage other drivers to do the same.

"I can't imagine a little car full of kids, that would be a big devastation right there," he said.