By Joe Beck
Some area police agencies are fielding reports of hungry black bears leaving their wooded habitats in search of food in homeowners' backyards.
Winchester police reported a call Thursday later determined about bird feeders destroyed and bird feeders damaged in the 1900 block of Harvest Drive. Police later determined that a bear caused the damage.
A news release from the police department quoted officials from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries that "residential bear problems may occur at any time of the year, but are more common when natural food supplies are limited, usually in the spring or in years when natural nut and berry production is low."
Front Royal Police Chief Norman Shiflett said his department has counted nine reports of bears disturbing residential trashcans since April 7.
Shiflett said the bears have not harmed any humans in the past, but people should stay away from them.
Winchester police also recommend residents remove bird feeders, store garbage indoors and not leave pet food outside.
"We've never had a bear-person injury but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen, Shiflett said.
Shiflett said residents can ask the town's public works department to put locks on garbage containers to limit bears' ability to get into them.
"They do help, but it's not a foolproof measure," Shiflett said of the locks.
The Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office reported few or no complaints of bear activities around residences.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org