Location: Free Union, Virginia, United States

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Bear is Back

... at about 10PM last night he dined in our garbage - a very big boy and looked quite healthy!

Via the VA dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Of the 3 bear
species (black, brown, and polar bears) in North America, only
the black bear lives in Virginia. Shy and secretive, the
sighting of a bear is a rare treat for most Virginians. However,
bears are found throughout much of the Commonwealth, and
encounters between bears and people are increasing. Most
encounters are people who have the opportunity to view a bear in
the wild, but given the right circumstances, bears may cause a
variety of problems/nuisances. However, a basic understanding of
bear biology and implementing a few preventative measures will
go a long way to helping make all your encounters with bears

Bear Facts

  • In
    Virginia, most black bears live in the mountains and the
    Dismal Swamp, but they are frequently found in all counties
    except a few in the east.

  • Black
    bears are typically crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn),
    but can be active any time of day.

  • Bears
    may feed up to 20 hours per day, accumulating fat (energy)
    prior to winter denning. An adult male can gain over 100
    pounds in a few weeks when acorn production is heavy.

  • Female
    black bears have smaller home ranges (1 to 51 square miles)
    than males (10 to 293 square miles).

  • Black
    bears are generally solitary, except sows caring for cubs.
    Adult bears may be seen together during the summer breeding

  • Bears
    are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, eating mostly
    plants in the spring, berries and insects in the summer, and
    nuts and berries in the fall. Bears have been observed
    capturing live animals, both wild and domestic. Carrion
    (dead animals) is often a part of a bear’s diet. Predation
    of livestock is not common, but is reported each year.

  • Adult
    female black bears weigh between 90 to 175 pounds. Males
    commonly weigh between 130 to 400 pounds. The largest known
    wild black bear was from North Carolina and weighed 880

  • Depending on weather and food conditions, black bears enter
    their winter dens between October and January. Bears will
    not eat, drink, urinate or defecate while denning. Bears are
    easily aroused and may be active during warm winter days.
    They emerge from their dens from mid-March to early May.

  • In
    Virginia, most bears den in large, hollow trees. Other den
    types include fallen trees, rock cavities, brush piles in
    timber cut areas, open ground nests, and man-made structures
    (culvert pipe).

  • Harvesting timber promotes the growth of many plant species
    that yield heavy berry, insect and other food sources.

  • Female
    black bears mature as early as three years old. Breeding
    occurs from mid-June to mid-August, and cubs are born from
    early January to mid-February.

  • Female
    black bears usually breed every other year as cubs are
    raised by their mother for about 1 ½ years. When the mother
    is ready to breed again, she will send her cubs to fend for
    themselves during the summer months when food is usually
    abundant. Always hungry, these yearling bears, particularly
    the males, will seek easy sources of food like pet food,
    birdseed or trash/garbage.

  • First-year cub mortality rates are about 20%, primarily due
    to predation (foxes, coyotes, dogs, bobcats, other bears) or
    abandonment by their mother sow. Adult bears do not have
    natural predators except humans.

  • Bear
    habitat must include food, water, cover, denning sites and
    diverse habitat types. Although bears are thought to be a
    mature forest species, they often use a variety of habitat
    types, including old fields and clear cuts or other timber
    harvest areas.

  • Bears
    may live up to 30 years in the wild. The oldest wild bear in
    Virginia lived 26 years.

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