Riner bear

A bear runs across the driving range of Auburn Hills Golf Club Thursday morning. Human-bear interactions are becoming more common as bear populations grow across the state.

The bear was there and then it was gone.

A black bear was spotted at Auburn Hills Golf Club Thursday morning. The bear bolted across the driving range and then went running toward the 10th hole, said Jeff Gandee, the course director.

“You don’t see a bear here very often,” he said, noting that in the past five years this was probably the fourth sighting at the course.

The bear was first spotted by a group of youngsters on the driving range as it ran by quickly. They watched it go by but didn’t approach it.

That’s exactly how to handle a running bear, said Jim Parkhurst, a Virginia Tech wildlife extension specialist.

Bears are generally skittish around people. However, under some circumstances they can become aggressive, especially if they’ve been given food.

Sightings of bears have become more and more common around the New River Valley and Virginia, Parkhurst said, as their populations have steadily increased. He said the most recent estimates of bears suggest there are about 18,000 across the state.

Virginia officials have noted that human-bear interactions are on the rise locally. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggests the following steps to dealing with bears in suburban areas.

  • Secure your garbage in bear-resistant trash cans or store it in a secure building.
  • Keep your grill clean.
  • Remove bird feeders if a bear is in the area.
  • Don’t put meat scraps in your compost pile.
  • Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Make sure your neighbors are following the same recommendations.

Making a conscious effort to avoid bears is the best thing a person can do.

“It’s our behaviors that tend to promote interactions,” Parkhurst said. “We want them [bears] to stay out in the woods and away from people.”

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Robby Korth covers higher education, primarily Virginia Tech.

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