Living with Black Bears in Virginia

We are working on initiating a new project for volunteers to work on to earn their volunteer hours. The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is seeking the help of Virginia Master Naturalists in spreading awareness and education on living with black bears to a broader audience in hopes to alleviate negative interactions and human-bear conflicts across the state of Virginia.

VMN volunteers will work with regional biologists from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to develop educational programming about bears and how to sustainably co-exist with bears.  Volunteers will decide when and where to present the material to reach the desired audiences.  Possible opportunities include talks for homeowners’ associations, realtors, community groups such as Ruritans, garden clubs, libraries, and government groups such as boards of supervisors.  Volunteers can also present information in a tabling/booth format at local events and festivals.  

Each chapter involved should aim to have at least 3 programs per year if possible, and more is fine if the opportunities exist.  The desired audiences include homeowners and their families (particularly those who can make a difference by changing their behaviors, such as by keeping their garbage secured or not leaving pet food outside), organizations who can influence residents (such as HOAs), and, in some cases, visitors to the area (particularly in locations with vacation rentals in bear country).

VMN volunteers will determine the specific locations and times of the educational programming.

Our DWR District Biologist for the Headwaters area will schedule a Black Bear 101 presentation for the chapter.  All interested members will be invited to attend. The presentation may be offered as a CE. We could arrange to set up the presentations in person or virtually.*

Once the 101 presentation is given, Pam Gray will ask for volunteers to be part of the Better Impact Living with Black Bears project. Once that group is assembled, our statewide Black Bear biologist or the Black Bear co-chair will come and give a very specific presentation that the group can use for outreach education, as well as print resources from DWR such as stickers and handouts to give out at events. 

Reach out to Pam Gray by email at pamsjolinder [at] to express an early interest or get more information.

– Pam Gray, Cohort VI, Projects Committee Chair, January 2023

Image courtesy of our DWR from their brochure: Living with Black Bears in Virginia

Find an excellent writeup of the Part 1 training for this project, Black Bears 101, held on April 24, 2023, by Stephanie Gardner HERE.

*Living with Black Bears in Virginia Part 1 Training is available as a YouTube video for those who missed the in-class session on April 24th. It is not a recording of the class, but an official DWR training video. Those of you who were unable to attend Part 1 in person, but want to attend Part 2 and participate in the Living with Black Bears Project may watch this video (and earn the same CE) and be eligible for project participation. Find the video here: