Why have there been so many recent bear sightings?

Posted at 12:20 AM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 00:22:52-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- There has been numerous reports of bear sightings in Central Virginia over the past few weeks, the latest area was in Short Pump Sunday.

CBS 6 wanted to know if the recent urban development in Western Henrico County could be to blame. So we went to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to find out.

Experts said while urban development is certainly pushing wildlife out of its natural habitat like deer, raccoons and foxes, bears are not native to Central Virginia.

They are simply passing through, as we saw Sunday when a young cub in front of Short Pump Town Center, before taking off across Broad Street and into the Martin's parking lot.

"These young bears have one thing in mind, that's where is my next meal coming from and they're moving,” said Lee Walker with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “As long as they can find food, they're going to eat it and they are going to move to the next location.”

While certainly unusual, experts say this is the time young bears have separated from their mothers and they're traveling from the southeastern and western parts of the states, usually following rivers corridors, like the James River in search of food.

Some of those corridors have grown smaller with urban development and young bears have found themselves face to face with people.

“What we see is a lot of folks with good intentions have great habitats in their yard, bird feeders, water features and gardens and this is where these young bears are going to end up going to and becoming a nuisance," he added.

Game and Inland Fisheries officials said the most recent bear appeared to be a two-year-old cub under 100 pounds.

Other recent bear sighting include a young bear in the Great Oaks Subdivision in May. That bear was tranquilized and taken to the western part of the state and released in the mountains.

And another bear was spotted last year in Church Hill and Mosby Court.

Game and Inland Fisheries officials said they try not to catch and tranquilize cubs in the warm summer months unless it's critical, saying it’s hard on their systems in the heat.

While development continues across the area, wildlife experts say they are working with developers to create natural barriers so that wildlife isn't completely pushed out of its habitat.

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