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It has taken decades of hard work by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Wildlife Center of Virginia and private conservation organizations to enable the recovery of Virginia’s black bear populations. But homeowners unaccustomed to living alongside a healthy bear population are now reporting bears as nuisances.
An overly aggressive and arbitrary hunt target.
The Virginia Department of Game of Inland Fisheries is proposing to reduce the black bear population by as much as 25% in some areas. They claim that a “cultural caring capacity”, meaning what the public will tolerate, has been reached. This is an irresponsible and unscientific manner of determining wildlife population control that would kill thousands of bears.
“Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this will have any impact on the complaints being generated by those claiming bear damage, especially if those people are unwilling to reduce or modify their activities that have been attracting bears in the first place. So, one out of every four bears could be killed, but the remaining bears could still be concentrated on properties where there are unprotected food sources or other attractants,” according to the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s website.
Change homeowner expectations, not bear populations.
As black bear populations return to sustainable levels, we need to reset the public view to accept that black bears are part of normal life in Virginia, and inform them on responsible behavior to reduce conflicts.
“If we can teach people, educate communities, educate homeowners associations, how to co-exist with bears, we feel that we can dramatically help reduce damage without having to reduce the bear population,” says Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
No county or region should be granted population reduction targets unless and until there has been a significant effort to reduce bear damage through non-lethal means, including public education, prohibition on game feeding (it’s already illegal to feed bears, but many put out food “for the deer”, knowing that it will attract bears.)
Public comment on the proposal will be open until May 10. The board of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will vote on the issue on May 24.
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