Here's what to do if you cross paths with a black bear in West Virginia

Here's what to do if you cross paths with a black bear in West Virginia
A black bear hides in a thicket in rural West Virginia. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

MARLINTON, W.Va. — When spring is in the air in West Virginia, black bears come out of hibernation and begin a desperate search for food.


Because bears become more active during this time of year, the chances of an outdoor encounter increase, says Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

“Be aware that bears are leaving their dens in March and will readily take advantage of human food sources,” Carpenter said. “Black bears should always be appreciated from a distance to ensure the safety of both humans and the bears.”

Carpenter recommends taking the following actions if you encounter a bear:


  • Remain calm.
  • Don't approach a bear.
  • Don't run from a bear.
  • Don't climb trees to escape a bear.
  • Give the bear a clear escape route.
  • Quietly back away and leave the area.
  • If attacked, immediately fight back.
  • Don't feed bears.

Carpenter reminds residents that feeding black bears is a violation of state law and a misguided disservice to the official state animal.

"Some people will set out food to get a closer look at this often-secretive animal," he said.

"Although feeding scraps to a bear that wanders near your home may be tempting, don’t risk it. This practice only strengthens a bear’s association with humans and food.

"These situations generally lead to bears losing their natural fear of humans, which can lead to property destruction or personal injury. At that point, the bear may need to be destroyed. Remember, in most cases, a fed bear is a dead bear.”


Bear movements are tied to food sources. Carpenter said that bears that roam residential areas in search of food are less likely to stay if they do not find anything to eat.

The key to avoiding human-bear conflicts is to remove or secure food attractants such as unsecured trash cans and pet food bowls before a bear finds them.

Watch the division's for more on best practices. Learn more about the .

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