Black Bear Forages for Food in Trash Near Day Care

Bear sightings on the rise in Virginia

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- It's been a busy Yogi season in Virginia, and the latest sighting was at a Prince William County day-care center.

There have been about a dozen bear sightings in the Haymarket and Gainesville areas recently. Sunday evening, a local family spotted a black bear foraging for food inside a trash bin.

No one else was around, but the sighting caused concern for some because it was in the parking lot of a day-care center that watches 200 children. When the center's director, Yvonne Bashaw, saw the photo of the bear, she decided to keep the kids inside for the first part of the day Monday.

"A little too close for comfort, with all the kids we have here," she said.

Six days later, the center still keeps the children away from the nearby wooded areas.

The children who spoke to News4 weren't so concerned.

"But it wasn't big," one 6-year-old girl said.

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"I'm not even scared of bears," another said. "I'm only scared of spiders."

When bears venture out of the woods and into communities, they're mainly looking for a reliable food source. To avoid any encounters, the best thing you can do is remove that potential source.

"Without the food, the bear has really no designs of staying," said John Roane, of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "That's why it's here. It's got food and it's got space, it'll stick around until those things are taken away."

Most black bears are more afraid of humans than humans are of them, experts say, but don't get cocky and feed them on purpose.

"Bears, they're not stupid," Roane said. "They associate humans with food sometimes whenever they're able to get that food. So if that food is there to them, the danger is that these bears could become acclimated to it, lose their fear of humans."

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