New neighbors have set up residence at Beckley West Apartments and it’s not the kind of neighbors one would expect.

According to Jody Clifford, a resident of Beckley West, two black bears have been stopping by every night for the past month and a half and causing a bit of trouble.

“Every night at 10 they have come by and they don’t seem to be afraid of people,” she said. “Last night, I saw both of them about a foot in front of the neighbor’s door, eating a bag of trash. They are becoming bold and coming up to the windows and looking in. ”

So what causes a bear to leave a wooded area and come into residential towns? According to Colin Carpenter, a wildlife biologist, it’s all a matter of the search for food. Doing something with the trash could be a solution.

“The problem is that the Dumpsters are easily accessible,” he said. “The most effective way is with electric fencing or having steel-locking lids, but even that might not work for them.”

Yet with kids around and people coming in at all times to throw away trash, Diana Foley said it wouldn’t work.

“Even if we could encase the Dumpster, the bear would probably climb over it,” the assistant manager said. “Also, with putting locking lids on it, the bears would jump up and down on it until it broke. I’m just wondering why they can’t come up here and tranquilize them like how they did about five years ago.”

Larry Berry, district wildlife biologist for the state Division of Natural Resources, said tranquilizing is time-consuming and that it is very unsuccessful at that time of night.

“At that time, bears are unpredictable and they don’t always show up at the same place at the same time,” he said. “I’ve spent many of nights up there trying to catch bears but been very unsuccessful.”

Berry said the DNR is setting up traps, not necessarily where the bears are coming from but where they are going to.

“We set it up in a location where it was going to, but for some reason, it has not returned to that spot,” he said. “ It will probably go back to that spot, but if it doesn’t, then we will have to move around the traps.”

The traps present their own danger, according to Berry

“The traps are dangerous, especially to kids,” he said. “It’s probably safer to have the bear around than have the traps sitting around, to tell the truth.”

Afraid it might become aggressive because of people harassing the bear, Clifford has called the DNR and even the sheriff to try to stop the problem, but said nothing seems to work.

“I’m afraid that someone will be attacked with all of the harassment,” she said. “I had to call the sheriff to make people stop throwing eggs at it and some people have shot them with paintballs and bullets.”

When the possible threat was mentioned to Carpenter, he said he thought it was very unlikely.

“Although it has happened, black bear attacks are very uncommon because they are docile animals,” he said. “People will think that they are coming toward them, but really, they aren’t. Most of the time they don’t even know a human is there because they have very poor sight and smell.”

If caught, Berry said, the bear would be killed and not simply moved to another location.

“We can save some bears, but where we’ve had so much trouble with this bear, we will have to destroy it,” he said. “We can’t just stick it in another area and have the same problem but in a different area.”


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