ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A recent rise in Roanoke Valley bear sightings is leaving some people wondering what to do if you see one in your neighborhood. WFXR News’ Rhian Lowndes spoke to an expert about how to protect yourself against bears and how to prevent them from coming around in the first place.

Bear sightings aren’t unusual in Virginia. In fact, according to Chester Leonard, the executive director of the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke, they’re to be expected.

“Humans, we are expanding into their habitats, and we are moving to their backyard,” Leonard explained. “It’s not our backyard. They were there first.”

However, there are ways to prevent bears from coming to your yard.

For example, if you know a bear is in your area, Leonard recommends removing obvious food sources, so keep your trash inside, take down your bird feeders, and don’t leave pet food outdoors. Bears may also sniff out a greasy grill or a compost pile.

“Once bears know a food source, they’ll keep coming back,” said Leonard.

If you do come across a bear, he says you should speak calmly and back up. However, if you’re cornered, do the opposite.

“Make yourself appear as big as possible and make as much noise as you possibly can,” Leonard said. “Try to intimidate the bear.”

As for his final tip, Leonard says bears have lived here longer than we have, so we need to learn to live with them.

For more ‘bear-wise’ basics at home and while camping, click here.