Officials at the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed that early last week, they set bear traps in the Stanaford area after receiving numerous phone calls from concerned residents who claimed to have spotted one or more black bears roaming through their yards.
Betty Dillon, a longtime resident of the Stanaford area, stated that she has seen a black bear in her yard on two separate occasions within the past two weeks.
She says that on the first sighting the bear came within 30 feet of her husband.
“I am scared to go outside,” she stated. “Our neighbors are scared to leave their houses. This bear is running rampant through our community and you just don’t know what a wild animal is going to do.”
According to the Piney View, Lanark & Stanaford community Facebook group, of which Dillon is a member, bear sightings have been occurring in this area since mid-June.
While the group page is normally filled with news of yard sales or community events, recent posts have revolved around the intruder and the disruption he has caused.
Since the weeks of the original sighting, numerous residents have said to have spotted a “large black bear” either in their yards or close to their houses. All sighting happened within the Piney View, Lanark and Stanaford areas and occurred every few days.
A majority of the posts were accompanied by pictures that residents had captured of the animal. One individual even posted a picture of his yard, which had been littered with their trash. In the photo, the trash bags appear to have been ripped open and strewn across the property.
Comments among the residents varied. Some showed concern and fear stating that bears “can attack even when unprovoked,” while others stated that bears had been seen in the area in years past and it was nothing to be concerned about.
Dillon says that since her time living in Stanaford she had never seen or heard of bears in the area. Concerned for the safety of herself and her neighbors, she contacted the DNR the first week of August.
According to Dillon, a DNR employee assured her she would pass the information along to officials and also instructed her to encourage her neighbors to contact the DNR anytime they saw a bear, so the division would have an idea on the animal’s location.
On Aug. 5, Dillon posted on the community Facebook group relaying this information. “PLEASE CALL,” she urged. “You have to call.”
The most recent sighting of the bear was documented on the group's page on Aug. 6. The post claims that the bear was wandering around Stonewall Road in Beckley.
Todd Dowdy, an official of the DNR’s Wildlife Department, confirmed that the DNR has received numerous phone calls concerning the animal and had gone to the location to set traps.
He stated that while there is definitely a habitual animal in the area, it is not uncommon to spot bears in that part of the county.
“Recently we have received a lot of calls from residents in that area, but most of them have not seen the bear directly. They are either reporting that their neighbor saw a bear or that they have seen the aftermath of what could be a bear. The Stanaford area, however, is a common place for bears and it is not out of the ordinary for them to be seen there,” he said, attributing this fact to the area’s wooded landscape.
“We have set traps are working to remove the bear from that general area.”
Dowdy also relayed that any time there are repeated calls concerning bears in an urban area, the DNR tries to educate the residents on how to handle the situation.
“The first thing we tell people to do when they see a bear is to immediately remove exposed food sources such as garbage cans and even bird feeders. You need to determine where and what the food source is and if that is what is drawing the bear to the area. Usually removing these food sources will result in the bear leaving the area.”
He continued, "If that doesn’t work, we encouraged people to use caution. We always tell folks that if they see a bear or find themselves within a close distance from a bear, they need to back away slowly and make sure the animal has a clear exit route.”
More information and educational materials concerning nuisance bear sightings can be found on the DNR’s website at wvdnr.gov/Hunting/NuisBear.shtm.
“We are taking measures to remove the bear, but it is not always that easy. Until we catch it, there is really not a lot we can do but document the different sightings and occurrences to see where and when the bear is moving.”
Until the animal is caught, the DNR urges residents to continue to call and help document the sightings.