Spring is in full swing, which means the bears of the Blue Ridge are on the move. After spending a winter in hibernation, these clever creatures are hungry and looking for food. After responding to multiple car break-ins this month, police at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort are urging residents and visitors to prioritize locking their car doors and removing attractants.
“They open the doors of the car just like a human would,” Wintergreen Police Chief Dennis Russell told CBS 19 News. “If the door is locked, they don’t usually break the door or break the window.”
Bears can smell food that people leave in their cars. According to BearWise, the part of a nose that captures scent is nearly 100 times larger in bears than humans, giving them one of the best senses of smell in the entire animal kingdom.
Along with their impressive sense of smell and ability to open doors like people, bears have a very strong memory when it comes to where they have found food. If bears continue to have success finding food in human areas, an increase in bear activity is more likely. According to the Wintergreen Police Department, 2019 saw 173 reports of bear activity. By 2020, that number nearly doubled to 346.
“If addressed promptly, problems are often quickly resolved,” the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) states on their website. “After a few failed attempts to find food around homes, bears will usually leave the area in search of their natural wild foods.
Wintergreen police are using innovative ways to discourage bears from wandering near residential areas. By using paintballs to track their patterns and playing sounds of barking dogs over loudspeakers, officers can ward off bears without hurting them.
For the safety and health of humans and bears, efforts towards keeping them separate are important. Remembering to clean attractants out of your car, and paying attention to tiny details such as candy wrappers, is a great way to prevent bear break-ins and avoid negative interactions with them. For more information on bear safety, visit DWR’s website.
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