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Local park rangers share tips on how to stay safe from bears this spring

Video of bear rummaging through family's trash leaves some startled
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Posted at 4:41 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 15:06:31-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Imagine waking up to a bear in your yard eating last night's dinner. That was the reality for a family in Chesapeake.

Check out this video sent in by a News 3 viewer of a black bear going through a family's trash. This is in the Western Branch neighborhood.

The video startled many and left people wondering what they can do to prevent bears this spring.

Local park rangers say bears are more common than people think and say it’s why they have signs up all year long reminding people to be “bear aware.”

According to Chesapeake Park Ranger Kenya Carter, you can expect to see a black bear or two this spring and summer. Carter says the bears are skittish and on the hunt for food.

His advice: Leave your snacks in the car, stay on marked trails and remain calm.

“Don’t attempt to get closer to the animal. You want to back away slowly. You want to give the animal an avenue of escape so it doesn't feel cornered,” Carter said.

Black bears aren’t just prevalent in our parks -- they're known to visit residential areas, too. Over the weekend, a 600 lb. bear made its way through a Chesapeake family's trash can, enjoying their Mexican leftovers.

To prevent this from happening to you, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources suggests making your trash bins bear-resistant by locking them.

But Suffolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach don't allow residents to make modifications to trash bins.

The only local city that allows trash bin modifications and locks is Norfolk, and they must be unlocked by trash collection time.

So, what else can you do?

To prevent a bear from feasting in your front yard, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recommends keeping your grill clean of any leftover food.

Pete Acker, a district biologist with Virginia DWR specializing in bears, says bears are the most hungry in the springtime.

"Bears emerge from their dens in the springtime and are hungry," he said. "This means they are following their noses for any food smells, which usually brings them to neighborhoods with trash, bird feeders, grills, and pet food."

Virginia DWR also recommends you remove bird feeders, bring pet food inside and pick off any ripe fruit from fruit trees.