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Bear caught in South Boston; climbs tree at middle school

South Boston residents spotted an unexpected visitor strolling through Centerville on Tuesday evening.

At approximately 200 pounds, a male juvenile black bear made himself at home wandering through the White Oak Drive subdivision across from the Church of God in South Boston before climbing a tree on the Halifax County Middle School grounds.

According to Halifax County Animal Control Chief Warden Todd Moser, a call came in around 5:30 p.m. for a bear that had been spotted in the Centerville area.

“He was originally seen in Centerville, then in the backyard of a subdivision across from the Church of God. South Boston Police cornered him near the football field at the middle school,” said Moser.

A few moments later, the Halifax County Animal Control officers tranquilized the young bear that had climbed to safety in a tree at the middle school.

Halifax County Animal Control officers were assisted by Campbell County Animal Control, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biology team, Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and the South Boston Police Department.

“We all worked well together. Now the bear can go live his life, and so can we,” said Moser. 

Moser said once the bear was tranquilized, it was taken by the biology team to be monitored for a few days and then relocated to an unknown destination.

“They have to monitor him for a few days to make sure he’s ok, and then they will relocate him. They never tell us where,” said Moser.

A biologist with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries picked up the bear that spent the night in a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries culvert trap and was brought to the Wildlife Center Wednesday morning.

The bear is now at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, and according to Randy Huwa, executive vice president at the center, the bear is expected to remain there for about a month until mid-December.

Because the 200-pound male black bear was chemically immobilized, the bear cannot be released until the drugs have left his system, according to Huwa. This is to protect any human who might shoot and consume the bear during the legal bear hunting season.   

In Halifax County, bear hunting season runs from Dec. 10-15.  Once hunting season is over, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will release the bear back in Halifax County.

The chief warden attributes the lack of timber in the county for the reason the young bear traveled through the Town of South Boston Tuesday evening.

“This time of year they are foraging for food before they hibernate…and with all the timber cut down in this county, their habitat is down,” said Moser.

Moser suggests county residents keep dog food inside, keep garbage up and don’t leave any scraps lying around. These precautions will limit the possibility of a bear visit.

Bears have been in Halifax County for the last 20 years, according to Moser, and with the continuance of timber being cut, residents can expect to see more wildlife including bears, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and deer.

“Don’t be scared if you see a bear. Just leave it alone and report the sighting, especially in town,” Moser concluded.

For more information or to report a sighting, contact Moser at 434-572-4292 or dial 911.

Learn more about the young male black bear taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro this week and view the bear on a critter cam at http://wildlifecenter.org/critter-corner/critter-cam