By Kaitlin Mayhew -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Black bears have been terrorizing trash bins in Front Royal in search of food lately.
Lynn Mitchell of the Front Royal Public Works Department said the town has had many calls complaining about bear disturbances in the area this year. She said that while bear activity is not uncommon in the area, the population has grown immensely.
"They used to come and relocate bears" when they caused problems, she said. "But the population has grown so much that they can't do that anymore."
According to a Tuesday news release, the town does provide "bear-proofing" services for trash bins for residents who have had trouble with the animals.
The service is available through the Public Works Department. Mitchell said the time it takes to have a trash bin "bear-proofed" varies.
"It's the refuse department that does it, so it just depends on when they have the time."
She said that took care of about five to 10 bins a few weeks ago, but that they haven't had too much interest in the service so far.
"Not too many people know that we do them," she said.
The bear-proofing consists of big eye hooks and chains that are secured around the trash bin's lid to keep a bear from opening it.
"I think it deters them," Mitchell said. "But if a bear really wants to get in, there isn't too much you can do."
She said in one incident a bear dragged a locked bin all the way to the woods on Overlook Drive.
Mitchell said that at one point the town was recommending that people put ammonia in their trash cans to deter bears with the strong scent.
"Opening a bottle of that stuff is probably enough to knock [a person] out," she said, so they don't recommend that anymore either.
The news release cited a few suggestions such as securing the garbage can in a shed or garage, putting them out in the morning instead of at night since bears are nocturnal, removing bird feeders and not leaving pet food outside.
The release also recommended frequently cleaning grills and not putting meat scraps or strong-smelling food in compost piles.
Anyone experiencing problems with bears scavenging through their garbage cans can contact Public Works Department at 635-7819.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also offers information about coexisting with bears on its website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear.