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Living with Bears
in the Northern
Virginia Piedmont

Virginia Department of Game & Inland
Fisheries
Additions by Marshall ...
What Species of Bear
Lives In Virginia?

Only Black Bears!
What Kind of Bears Are In Virginia?
No Brown (=Grizzly) Bears!
How Big are Black Bears?
Weight
Males
(boars)
adult weight
200-500
pounds

Females (sows)
adult weight
100-250
pounds
General Features
Large, non-retractable
claws

Used for:
Digging up
insects
Defense
Especially for
climbing trees!!
Why Do Bears Stand Up?
Nearsighted

Upright posture
improves
their view

Keen senses of
smell & hearing
GeneralHistory
Life Features
Males in VA
 home

range : 10300 square miles

Females in VA
 home

range : 1-50
square mil...
What Bears Eat


~75% vegetative matter;
berries, nuts, grasses,
and fruits



~25% insects, worms,
larvae, carrion, sma...
.

What do Ants and Hot
Tubs have in common?
.

What do ants & hot
tubs have in common?

Formic acid
Formic acid is probably a reason bears sometimes bite into insulat...
The Importance of Fall
Foods



Bears may gain as much as 1-2
pounds per day beginning in late
summer through the fall in...
Winter “Hibernation”
Enter dens: Oct.-Jan.

Time of entry depends on reproductive status,
weather, and available foods

De...
Winter “Hibernation”
Not True Hibernators : body temperature comes within ~2 °F of surrounding
temperature

Bear body temp...
Reproduction
…







Cubs born mid-late January
in den (½ to ¾ lbs)
Litter size ~2.5, range 1-4

1 day old cub

Born b...
Reproduction
…

 20-25% cub mortality

rate during the first
year

 Rely on their mother

through the next
denning seaso...
Bears on the Move
SPRING






Bears leave dens in
search of food
- Food is limited
Female bears : Travel
with cubs
Ma...
Bears on the Move
SUMMER


Yearlings left to fend for
themselves
– Females may establish
home ranges near mother
– Males ...
Distribution and
Abundance




Pre 20th Century - limited
info.
Early 1600’s, Colonial
times - abundant statewide
1739 ...
Distribution and
Abundance
 1911 land purchases began

– Mt Rogers, Natural Bridge,
Shenandoah National Park
 Ag-land be...
1950’s
Occupied Black Bear Range
1980’s
Occupied Black Bear Range
1990’s
Occupied Black Bear Range
2000’s
Occupied Black Bear Range
Bear Population Dynamics
 Populations grow very slowly

– Maximum 25% increase per year, not in hunted
areas

 Slow reco...
Afraid to Go Outside?
In this part of the black
bear range:
• Black bears do not
exhibit predatory
behavior
• In Virginia ...
Human Deaths Related to:
Black Bears

1

Every 2 years in ALL OF NORTH
AMERICA

15

Year

1000

Day

Hurricanes

16

Year
...
Bears in your backyard?
Never Feed Bears!

In VA, it is illegal to deliberately feed bears on public or private lands.
Even the inadvertent feedin...
Remove or Secure All
Potential Sources of Food
Bird feeders
Garbage
Pet food
Vegetable crops
and fruits
Bee hives
Livestoc...
Bear Proof !
Take Down Birdfeeders April 1 st
– December 1 st

30% of Bear Complaints are Birdfeeder Related
Acorns vs Cheeseburger
Living with Wildlife Foundation
A dozen eggs = 888 calories = 234 acorns.
A pound of hot dogs = 1,4...
Feed your pets, not bears!
Feed pets only what they
will eat.
Remove bowl soon after
they finish.
Do not leave food out
ov...
Don ’t forget the grill!
Keep outdoor grills clean
Do not leave food
scraps or spilled
grease in your yard
Protect Crops and
Orchards
 Set

up electric fencing

 Use
 Pick

noise makers

ripe fruit and
remove fallen fruit
Protect Your Bees
Electric Fences
Bear Proof Home and
Neighborhood


Talk to your neighbors
– It only takes one….









Screen-porches should not...
A Bear in Your House



DON’T PANIC
Open all doors to outside
– Keep something handy near
doors



Get out of the way
–...
Nuisance Bear Management
Why Translocation May Not Be an Option
• A bear can travel hundreds of miles and can return to a ...
Nuisance Bear
Management
Future of Nuisance Bear
Management

• Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!
• Home and landowner aw...
Bear Population Objectives Map
(generally ensuring that similar zones have similar objectives )
More Information
Black Bear Management Plan
http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/
Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Steward...
More Information
Rappahannock League for
Environmental Protection
www.rlep.org

Smithsonian Conservation
Biology Institute...
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont
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Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont

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This presentation was given by Marshall Jones of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute with slides from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It was given at the Piedmont Environmental Council's Thumb Run Habitat Project Open House in Orlean, Fauquier County, VA on November 13, 2013. For more information about the project, visit www.pecva.org/habitat

Published in: Education, Technology, Sports
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Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont

  1. 1. Living with Bears in the Northern Virginia Piedmont Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries Additions by Marshall Jones Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
  2. 2. What Species of Bear Lives In Virginia? Only Black Bears!
  3. 3. What Kind of Bears Are In Virginia? No Brown (=Grizzly) Bears!
  4. 4. How Big are Black Bears? Weight Males (boars) adult weight 200-500 pounds Females (sows) adult weight 100-250 pounds
  5. 5. General Features Large, non-retractable claws Used for: Digging up insects Defense Especially for climbing trees!!
  6. 6. Why Do Bears Stand Up? Nearsighted Upright posture improves their view Keen senses of smell & hearing
  7. 7. GeneralHistory Life Features Males in VA  home range : 10300 square miles Females in VA  home range : 1-50 square miles Varies widely by season, habitat quality, and reproductive status Male’s home range will usually overlap several female home ranges
  8. 8. What Bears Eat  ~75% vegetative matter; berries, nuts, grasses, and fruits  ~25% insects, worms, larvae, carrion, small animals, and fish. Although not particularly good hunters, they have been known to prey on small to medium-sized mammals such as rodents and deer fawns.
  9. 9. . What do Ants and Hot Tubs have in common?
  10. 10. . What do ants & hot tubs have in common? Formic acid Formic acid is probably a reason bears sometimes bite into insulated snowmobile seats, hot tub covers, and refrigerator walls. These items all produce formic acid when the formaldehyde in the insulation breaks down, making them smell like ant colonies.
  11. 11. The Importance of Fall Foods  Bears may gain as much as 1-2 pounds per day beginning in late summer through the fall in preparation for denning  Need high energy foods to gain weight  Most important = Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts  Cultivated corn, peaches, cherries, apples, and other fruits attract bears especially when natural food sources are scarce
  12. 12. Winter “Hibernation” Enter dens: Oct.-Jan. Time of entry depends on reproductive status, weather, and available foods Den sites in Virginia Rock cavities, excavations, brush piles, trees, snags In western Virginia, they use a high percentage of tree dens (~69%). In eastern Virginia, they more often found in ground dens. Tree den Ground dens
  13. 13. Winter “Hibernation” Not True Hibernators : body temperature comes within ~2 °F of surrounding temperature Bear body temperature only falls 9-14°F Do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate Respiration/heart rates decrease May lose 30% body weight Easily aroused from slumber
  14. 14. Reproduction …    Cubs born mid-late January in den (½ to ¾ lbs) Litter size ~2.5, range 1-4 1 day old cub Born blind and helpless 5 day old cub
  15. 15. Reproduction …  20-25% cub mortality rate during the first year  Rely on their mother through the next denning season
  16. 16. Bears on the Move SPRING     Bears leave dens in search of food - Food is limited Female bears : Travel with cubs Male bears: Mostly solitary Yearlings may be with siblings
  17. 17. Bears on the Move SUMMER  Yearlings left to fend for themselves – Females may establish home ranges near mother – Males may travel far to find unoccupied range  Mating – Adult males may increase home range searching for mates
  18. 18. Distribution and Abundance    Pre 20th Century - limited info. Early 1600’s, Colonial times - abundant statewide 1739 bears only in western mountains and swamps – human population growth  By 1900 - near extinction in VA – typical agriculture; extensive deforestation, burning, grazing, cultivation = little habitat left for bears
  19. 19. Distribution and Abundance  1911 land purchases began – Mt Rogers, Natural Bridge, Shenandoah National Park  Ag-land began reverting back to forests  Creation of parks secured protected habitat for bears
  20. 20. 1950’s Occupied Black Bear Range
  21. 21. 1980’s Occupied Black Bear Range
  22. 22. 1990’s Occupied Black Bear Range
  23. 23. 2000’s Occupied Black Bear Range
  24. 24. Bear Population Dynamics  Populations grow very slowly – Maximum 25% increase per year, not in hunted areas  Slow recovery from low populations  Hunting mortality is additive – Bears killed by hunters are in addition to those who would have died from natural causes
  25. 25. Afraid to Go Outside? In this part of the black bear range: • Black bears do not exhibit predatory behavior • In Virginia there has never been an unprovoked attack on a person since Jamestown was
  26. 26. Human Deaths Related to: Black Bears 1 Every 2 years in ALL OF NORTH AMERICA 15 Year 1000 Day Hurricanes 16 Year Tornadoes 65 Year Being Struck by Lightning 70 Year Bee Stings 80 Year Riding a Bicycle 800 Year Accidental Gunfire 1500 Year Walking / Pedestrians 8000 Year Murder/Homicides 17,000 Year Automobile Accidents 47,000 Year 150 Year 885,000 Year IN THE UNITED STATES ONLY: Dog Attacks Non fatal visits to emergency room from dog bites Automobile Collisions with Deer Cardiovascular Disease
  27. 27. Bears in your backyard?
  28. 28. Never Feed Bears! In VA, it is illegal to deliberately feed bears on public or private lands. Even the inadvertent feeding of bears is illegal.
  29. 29. Remove or Secure All Potential Sources of Food Bird feeders Garbage Pet food Vegetable crops and fruits Bee hives Livestock food
  30. 30. Bear Proof !
  31. 31. Take Down Birdfeeders April 1 st – December 1 st 30% of Bear Complaints are Birdfeeder Related
  32. 32. Acorns vs Cheeseburger Living with Wildlife Foundation A dozen eggs = 888 calories = 234 acorns. A pound of hot dogs = 1,456 calories = 384 acorns. A McDonald’s double cheeseburger combo = 1,620 calories = 427 acorns. A pound of Black oil sunflower seeds = 1,740 calories = 458 acorns. A dozen Jelly donuts = 2,640 calories = 695 acorns. A large Pepperoni Pizza = 17,352 calories = 4,566 acorns.
  33. 33. Feed your pets, not bears! Feed pets only what they will eat. Remove bowl soon after they finish. Do not leave food out overnight. Store pet food in secure location.
  34. 34. Don ’t forget the grill! Keep outdoor grills clean Do not leave food scraps or spilled grease in your yard
  35. 35. Protect Crops and Orchards  Set up electric fencing  Use  Pick noise makers ripe fruit and remove fallen fruit
  36. 36. Protect Your Bees
  37. 37. Electric Fences
  38. 38. Bear Proof Home and Neighborhood  Talk to your neighbors – It only takes one….        Screen-porches should not be used for storage Remove fruit producing plants from around your home Keep garages closed at night Secure outbuildings Bear “Unwelcome” mats Paintball guns Talk with your community leaders about bear proof trash disposal and pickup options
  39. 39. A Bear in Your House   DON’T PANIC Open all doors to outside – Keep something handy near doors  Get out of the way – Don’t block escape routes   Yell, throw things, make noise Don’t approach but don’t back down
  40. 40. Nuisance Bear Management Why Translocation May Not Be an Option • A bear can travel hundreds of miles and can return to a known food source within days. • Bears returning to original sites are often hit by cars. • When relocated, a nuisance bear could become someone else's problem. •Translocation does not solve the original problem of food attractants.
  41. 41. Nuisance Bear Management Future of Nuisance Bear Management • Prevention! Prevention! Prevention! • Home and landowner awareness • Community involvement • Deterrents / Aversive conditioning
  42. 42. Bear Population Objectives Map (generally ensuring that similar zones have similar objectives )
  43. 43. More Information Black Bear Management Plan http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear/ Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship Campaign www.BeBearAware.org Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country Linda Masterson, 2006 North American Bear Center www.bear.org
  44. 44. More Information Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection www.rlep.org Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Marshall Jones jonesmp@si.edu, 540-635-6517

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