Bear-anoia is a play on paranoia. I have seen people criticized for being overly cautious of bears. Since bears are large predatory animals, it is a good idea to be aware of their potential existence in your area. Having been out enough in bear country, I can recognize signs of their presence as well as having seen my share while out in the wilds. I have a healthy respect for bears.
My most recent encounter happened this past weekend while walking a piece of property I hunt at. I was out with a friend walking the trials and checking stands for the upcoming season. The property next door was clear cut a couple years ago and is now extremely thick with vegetation. We were walking the edge of that property line when we heard something in that brush. At first I figured it was probably a fox. As it got closer it was obviously to big to be a fox. Maybe it is a deer? We stood quietly waiting to catch a glimpse of the source of the noise. Then It came out of the thick brush enough to see that it was black. At that point I thought it was someone’s dog. As it stepped out on the trail we were on, we could positively ID it as a bear as we stood there looking at about a 180 pound black bear looking back at us no more than 15 yards away. Fortunately it decided it had better head back into the thick brush. It was an exciting encounter.
Last year we had a load of rock delivered to fill the ruts in the drive. The driver advised us that we should carry protection when in the woods due to a 1,000 pound bear that had been seen in the area. Of course a black bear doesn’t get that big. So we translated that to be a fairly sizable bear in the area. Last year we didn’t see it, but did find sign that it had visited the property. While at the cabin last weekend we talked about the rumors and bear signs never expecting to actually see it. That seems to be how it always works. First you hear the rumors, then the signs followed by a sighting.
Central Virginia isn’t really noted for having large populations of bears. The Mountains and the far south east of Virginia are. I have seen more and more sign of bears in the central portion of the state over the past few years. Typically I haven’t taken much precaution for bears when out in central VA. After seeing signs I have had to re-think that over the past couple years.
So when ever you’re out, know the risk of the wildlife in your area. Take the precautions necessary to minimize your risk. I will usually have pepper spray on me when I’m out for a non-lethal option. Stay safe out there.