Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries officials say bears are on the move this time of year searching for food and urge you to put away anything that might attract them to your property.
Melody Pickels woke up Monday to a mess behind her shed. A trail of candy wrappers and snack cake boxes. Pickels believed a bear tore into her trash the night before and thought bungee cords would secure the bins. But not quite.
"They were all over the yard. The bungee cords were still on there, but the bear had reached up into the lid and pulled the trash out," said Pickels.
Pickels didn't see the bear but her neighbor Dane Whitehead did.
"Around 375 pounds at least. It's the biggest ones I've ever seen in the wild. He was a monster," said Whitehead.
It rummaged through his trash too.
"It sounded like somebody was breaking into my shed and I got up shot the flashlight out the window, and there he was in my garbage can," said Whitehead.
A bird feeder was knocked off a pole by the bear looking for seeds. Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries officials say about 80% of their calls about bears have to do with trash being left unsecured and bird feeders left out.
A bear expert at the game department says in cases like this families should lock up trash bins and put away bird feeders for two weeks. The bear will move on. That's the plan says Whitehead, though he isn't worried.
"When you live in the country we expect that," said Whitehead.
But Pickels isn't as comfortable.
"I just don't feel safe in my yard. I won't go for walks in the woods or anything any time soon," said Pickels.
Virginia Game officials say not to worry, there has never been an unprovoked bear attack in Virginia. But if you do happen to see one, just leave it alone. You can find out more information about bears at the department's web site at www.dgif.virginia.gov.