Bear Safety

Black bears are present throughout most of Virginia. As Virginia's black bear population grows and expands, there can be increased opportunities for black bear sightings or encounters. Black bears have a natural fear of humans, are shy, and usually avoid people. However, bears may be attracted to food sources in residential areas.

Be Bear Aware

Learn more about what to do if you see a bear in Virginia woods or in your neighborhood from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Watch the video below to become Bear Aware!

Here are a few helpful tips from the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to help keep bears wild, safely coexist, and prevent conflict. For more information and additional resources head to

At Home

Bears are attracted to food sources in residential areas. But with some simple steps, you can reduce the chances of making bears repeated visitors to your neighborhood or property.

  • Secure your garbage in bear-proof container or store it in a secure building.
  • Clean your outdoor grill often.
  • Remove bird feeders if a bear is in the area. Bears consume seeds and nuts found in the wild, so bird feeders can become a favored target for bears.
  • Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Pick up and remove ripe fruit from fruit trees.
  • Talk to your neighbors. Make sure your neighbors and community are aware of these recommendations.

After a few failed attempts to find food around homes, bears will usually leave the area in search of natural wild foods. If necessary, DWR can help you identify additional attractants that you may have on your property.

In Nature

In almost all cases, a black bear will detect you and leave the area before being noticed. However, if you do encounter a bear, here are some suggestions:

  • Do not run. Running could prompt the bear to chase. If in a group, stay together and make sure that your dog stays leashed.
  • If the bear hasn’t seen you, calmly leave the area, while making a bit of noise so the bear will not be surprised by you.
  • If the bear has seen you, back away slowly while facing the bear. Speaking softly may also let the bear know you mean no harm.

Living with Black Bears in Virginia Brochure