WASHINGTON - Bears are animals you would want to see at the zoo - not in your backyard, but several of them have been seen in Prince William County recently.
Police say the animals are on the move in search of food, which can cause them to come into contact with homeowners and residents using parks.
Bears generally avoid humans, but may wander into the suburbs while looking for something to eat.
The police department's Animal Control Bureau says you should keep a respectful distance, leave the area, and bring any pets inside.
They say feeding a bear is illegal in Virginia, and is detrimental to the bear.
They recommend the following tips and suggestions for dealing with hungry bears:
- Remove food sources that might attract hungry bears. This includes bird feeders, garbage, pet food, outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees and beehives. Virginia's bears are primarily active and very hungry in the spring and early summer, so temporarily removing these items, or scrupulously cleaning them if you can't remove them, should help.
- Do not store household trash - or anything that smells like food - in vehicles, on porches, or decks. Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement. If you do not have a trash collection service, take your garbage to the Landfill frequently (twice a week or more). If you do have a trash collection service, put your garbage out the morning of the pickup rather than the night before.
- Take down your birdfeeders temporarily until the bear moves on.
- Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and extremely efficient, proven deterrent to bears, around dumpsters, gardens, beehives or other potential food sources.
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