ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This is bear den season, and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wants everyone to be aware of it.

Bears generally do not hibernate in Virginia because it does not get cold enough for long periods of time. However, they do build dens, bed down, and restrict their movements through Virginia’s colder months.

Female bears will build dens and remain in them while they birth and nurse cubs. That can happen anytime between December and early spring.

The DWR wants people to be aware of denning activity while they are out on winter hikes so they do not disturb the bears.

Bears will use hollow trees, rock outcroppings, caves, holes brush piles, and even crawlspaces or areas under porches to build dens.

If you find a den, leave it alone. If you do flush a female bear from a den with cubs, do not disturb it.

“Sometimes the female bear might get nervous and run off,” said DWR Bear, Deer, and Turkey Biologist Katie Martin. “She’s likely to come back so, again, just leave the area if you do flush the bear away from the den. Just get back away from it, leave it alone. She’s likely to come back that evening once it gets dark and gets quiet and return to that spot.”

Bears present little threat to people unless they are startled or feel threatened. Though they live in close proximity to humans, they generally avoid contact with people.

“Bears are real cautious animals, they’re curious, but often times, especially at this time of year, in a den they’ll just stay put, especially a female that has cubs,” said Martin. “She doens’t want to leave those cubs, so she’ll just sit tight.”

The DWR also cautions people walking dogs to keep their pets on a leash so that the dog does not get into a den.

Black bears are doing very well in Virginia. Martin says their numbers are strong.