VINTON, Va. (WFXR) — As Virginia’s bear population is restored, the number of bear-vehicle incidents is also rising. There are now more black bears in Virginia than there have been in decades. That has meant more encounters with humans on the roads.
“Unfortunately it can be difficult to avoid wildlife-vehicle collisions, but it is important to drive slower and remain alert in heavily wooded areas, around crop fields, and at dawn and dusk,” said Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources District Biologist Ali Davis. “It is also important to pay attention to wildlife-crossing and warning signs.”
Darius Jordan is a trucker from Monroe, Louisiana. He says common sense is vital when traveling through states like Virginia where bear numbers are higher than in other places.
“They are starting to come out of the woods and come on the road,” Jordan said during a recent stop at a truck stop near Daleville. “Just have to use common sense, for sure.”
For Jordan, that means driving the speed limit and being aware of the surroundings.
While bears are active primarily during the day, some have adopted nocturnal behaviors as a means of avoiding people. So, if you are driving in areas where bears are found, they can be harder to spot after dark.
If you happen to strike a bear with your vehicle, do not try to help it.
The Virginia State Police says you should call 911 immediately because an injured animal is always a dangerous one. If you do not feel safe, stay in your vehicle until help arrives.
While bears are found throughout southwest Virginia, even in suburban and urban areas, they prefer areas with plenty of cover. They also require access to water, and that can put them into closer contact with people. That can make areas near roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway prime spots for bears and also put them in the way of vehicles.
“I’m always on the lookout for different types of wildlife when I’m driving down the road,” said Jim Sehy of North Carolina during a stop at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Mainly because I want to see them, but also just for safe driving. I’m always looking out for deer, vultures, bears, whatever, kind of always scanning the road to see what’s there.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation is factoring in increasing wildlife numbers in planning. On some stretches of road, fencing has been installed to funnel wildlife to culverts and underpasses where animals like bears and deer can safely cross.