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You are here: Home Opinion Paula I. Bryant PAULA I. BRYANT: Black bear scare

PAULA I. BRYANT: Black bear scare

No one can say for sure how long he had been standing there, but the large black bear felt comfortable enough to edge closer and closer to Alice Rudder’s back yard off Cluster Springs Road Friday afternoon.

Unaware of her impending visitor, Alice continued busily working in her yard picking up sticks and debris, with her little dog, “Bossy,” close underfoot.

Neither of the two sensed the bear’s presence.

About 20 yards from her house, the black bear decided to take a closer look – most likely eyeing “Bossy” as a tasty morsel or scouting for any signs of a garbage bin that might yield his next meal.

He reared up on two legs and just stood there staring at the unsuspecting pair.

The large bear standing in the open area just shy of where field becomes yard caught the eye of a passing motorist who also realized Alice and Bossy were unaware of the danger that stood just yards behind them.

Quickly she pulled into the driveway and shouted to Alice warning of the possible bear encroachment.

All the commotion was too much for the black bear to take, and he bolted back toward the woods from whence he came.

No harm, no foul, but Alice and Bossy are still shaking days after the close encounter in their own backyard.

Bossy’s days of freely roaming around in the yard may be few and far between in the near future, at least until the scare wears off.

Meanwhile, Alice is all too well aware her black bear visitor may return, and in the meantime she fears he lurks in the shadows of the woods seeking his next meal.

This story is one becoming increasingly more common as relations between humans and black bears in Southside Virginia become more intertwined.

Black bears are coming back, their populations seem to be thriving at the same time human populations are growing, which often means the two worlds are colliding as never before.

It’s only when their natural foods grow scarce that bears get desperate and move toward human foods and garbage.

As the forests are being cut down and their homes cleared away, bears are putting to use some new foraging techniques, hitting garbage bins, targeting brimming bird feeders and breaking into trash compactors.

Normally docile black bears are quickly learning a little snorting, charging and jaw-snapping will cause humans to surrender and seek shelter leaving the goods behind for the bear to devour.

The good news is that of the estimated 900,000 black bears in North America, on average only one causes fatal injuries to a person each year. And in most cases, when humans and black bears cross paths, the danger of the encounter is still borne almost entirely by the bear.

But Alice says she’s not taking any chances now that she knows a big black bear is about.  

You can bet it’ll be a while before she nonchalantly ventures out into her yard again this summer.