(WFXR) – With more people enjoying the great outdoors with family and friends, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is reminding everyone that when you are with your pets, to be mindful that black bears — or other wildlife — are also out and about.

The Virginia DWR says that you can take a few easy steps to help you and your pet to avoid potentially negative outcomes involving encounters with wildlife while enjoying the outdoor life.

They say that in most cases when bears hear dogs barking, they may feel nervous and, in most situations, will likely retreat; however, the bear may become provoked and defend themselves through fighting or chasing off the dog which could result in the bear or the dog possibly sustaining an injury. Also, if a chase ensues, the likelihood of your dog running back at you with the bear in-chase is a likely scenario.

The DWR recommends the following tips when you are both at home and away.

At home

  • Feed your dog (and other pets) inside. If you must feed outdoors, make sure to clean up any spilled or uneaten food and store the empty bowl inside.
  • Turn on a security or porch light, check your yard for signs of a bear, and make some noise before letting your dog out in the morning or evening when bears are most commonly active in the warmer months. Talking or clapping can avoid a surprise encounter by alerting a bear to your presence in order to give him or her time to leave the area.
  • Always have your dog on a leash while walking in your neighborhood and be aware of your surroundings by looking for signs that a bear may be frequenting your yard.
  • If you encounter a bear while out in the yard, do not run or let your dog chase after the bear! Recall your dog (if unleashed) and go inside.
  • If your dog becomes engaged with a bear, DO NOT try to separate them or get in between your dog and the bear. Use loud noises, throw things, use pepper spray, a paintball gun, or water hose directed at the bear to chase him or her off.

While recreating

  • Keep dogs leashed at all times and do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
  • Never leave your dog unattended or let him or her get out of your sight.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid taking your dog into areas with concentrated bear signs (tracks, scat).
  • When camping, feed your dog only as much as he or she will eat and pick up the rest. Store all food in wildlife-resistant containers and clean up any spills.
  • If you see a bear using the same trail as you and your dog, back up along the trail to give the bear time to run off. Never approach or run from the bear.
  • Carry pepper spray in an accessible location, practice in advance, and know how to properly use it. Talk to your vet in advance about what to do if your dog is exposed to the spray while in a backcountry area.
  • Familiarize yourself with how to appropriately recreate while in bear country

For additional information as well as more tips on recreating in bear country, click here or here

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