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West Virginia DNR advises not to feed black bears

This year bears have been seen on Buffalo Mountain, located between Williamson and Delbarton and on the King Coal Highway. Individuals have been feeding one bear dog food and scraps on the King Coal Highway. (Williamson Daily News)

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is reminding residents that feeding black bears is a violation of state law.

"It is understandable that some people will set out food to get a closer look at this often-secretive animal," said Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the DNR Wildlife Resources Section, to the Williamson Daily News. "However, these actions may lead to the destruction of the bear. Bear movements are tied to food sources.

Officials said bears are less likely to stay in an area if they do not find any food, so removing or securing food attractants is wise before a bear finds them.

The past few years black bears have been seen in the East End of Williamson, Valley View subdivision and Cinderella Hollow.

This year bears have been seen on Buffalo Mountain, located between Williamson and Delbarton and on the King Coal Highway. Individuals have been feeding one bear dog food and scraps on the King Coal Highway, the newspaper reports.

"This year, we want to get the word out about human-bear conflicts before bears show up in your neighborhood," Carpenter said. "The peak of nuisance bear activity in West Virginia occurs during May. However, bears begin leaving their dens in mid-March, and nuisance complaints begin coming in around April 1."

Capturing and moving bears that have become accustomed to humans is a costly and often ineffective way of addressing the problem, especially when faced with the possibility of moving a problem bear from one area to another, officials said.

Bear populations have increased in both number and distribution in the past 20 years. Bears are now found in areas where they have been absent for decades and have been reported in all 55 counties. In the past few years, bears were harvested in 48 of West Virginia's 55 counties. There is simply nowhere to move bears that have become a problem, according to Carpenter.

Feeding of any wildlife should be avoided for many reasons, including, but not limited to, disease transmission, increased predation, habitat destruction around the feeding site, ethical concerns and the animal's overall health.

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