Gary Trice, owner of Homestead Hardware in Ruther Glen, shot a black bear on his father’s property early Monday morning.
There have certainly been a few sightings of black bears in Caroline, including the tracking of a female and her cubs by the Caroline County Animal Control Department. But despite the occasional sighting, or tracking by authorities, hearing that your neighbor shot and killed a black bear with a crossbow is not a usual occurrence in the county.
Trice was dear hunting on his father’s farm in the early hours of Oct. 28. The experience had been business as usual for about the first hour so after he had set up. Then came a type of game that surprised the hunter.
Trice recalled getting to the tree stand on his father’s property at 4:30 a.m. At about 5:30 a.m. a large male black bear came into view. Trice shot the bear from 30 yards away with a crossbow and from the tree stand where he had been all morning.
The farm where the bear was shot is located off of Route 1 and north of Ladysmith.
Trice said the experience was “a bit of a surprise,” considering that “it isn’t often that you hear about bears being killed by crossbow in Caroline County.”
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) website says, “With a healthy, growing black bear population, bear sightings are becoming common throughout much of Virginia.” The website outlines how black bears are very intelligent, and highly adaptable to their surroundings, and because of this they can live close to humans.
Many residents may not even be aware that bears are living close to them, until it happens that a bear may “wander into residential areas due to the smell of food around homes,” according to the VDGIF.
Some of the most common attractants to bears that residents can watch out for include: garbage, pet and livestock food, and bird feeders. Other things that may attract bears and cause them to wander close to residences are: outdoor grills, fruit trees, compost piles, and beehives.
The VDGIF cautions residents to “always remember that a bear is a wild animal,” and that feeding bears in Virginia is not only illegal under any circumstance, but also “is detrimental to the bear.”
In fact, the law states that it is illegal for anyone “including (but not limited to) private citizens, homeowners associations, corporations, or government entities to place, distribute, or allow the placement of food, minerals, carrion, trash, or similar substances to feed or attract bear.” If such behavior continues after notification is given to the offender by the authorities, then that person will be held in violation of the law.
Bears have a natural distrust of humans, which is why they like to stay a safe distance away from people. The bears may lose this natural instinct if residents provide them with food, “creating situations where bears may become habituated and sometimes aggressive toward people,” according to the VDGIF.
“Black bears have small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, large non-retractable claws, a large body, a short tail, and shaggy hair,” according to the website. In Virginia, most black bears are true black in color.
The VDGIF website lists the approximate length of an adult black bear to be between 4 and 7 feet from nose to tail; male bears are larger than females. Female bears weigh between 90 and 250 pounds, depending on the given time of year. Males can weigh between 130 and 500 pounds.
Trice estimated that the bear he shot with his crossbow weighed in at about 200 pounds. The largest wild black bear on record was a male weighing in at 880 pounds, which was discovered in North Carolina.
Trice followed all regulations of the Virginia Game Commission after he had shot the bear. There is a seasonal bag limit of one bear per hunter. The minimum live weight for a bear to be shot and harvested in Virginia is 100 pounds. Killing a female bear with cubs is illegal. Bear trapping with steel leg traps is also illegal. In addition, all bears must be checked at an official bear check station.
Archery bear season runs Oct. 5 through Nov. 15. Muzzleloader bear season runs
Nov. 9 through Nov. 15. Firearms season for Caroline runs Nov. 25 through Jan. 4. For more information on black bears, bear safety, and hunting regulations, visit http://www.dgif.virginia.gov.