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The one thing you can do to help keep bears away from your home this season

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MIDLOTHIAN, Va. - For the third time in less than a week, viewers have contacted WTVR CBS about black bears roaming free near their homes.  Bear sightings are a regular, frequent occurrence this time of year, according to wildlife experts.

Wednesday morning, someone spotted a black bear running across the Deer Run Road in Midlothian and reported it to police.  Tuesday, a large black bear wandered into a Beaverdam backyard.  Video sent to WTVR CBS 6 over the weekend showed a black bear jogging past the backdoor of a Petersburg home.

"They're looking for the path of least resistance and the easiest way to get food without having to spend a whole lot of calories finding that food," Jaime Sajecki, who studies black bears for Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries, said.

The black bear population is very healthy across Virginia, Sajecki said.  She added that despite hundreds of sightings each year, there has never been an unprovoked bear attack in Virginia.

"Preventing conflict, taking simple steps to prevent any negative interactions is so important now," said Sajecki.  "They're not in the neighborhoods to seek out people or pets or children. They're there because we leave easy food out for them. "

Sajecki said bears have a sense of smell seven times stronger than a bloodhound.  Their usual neighborhood quick meal comes from trash cans or bird feeders, so securing those items can prevent bears from approaching your home.

If you spot a bear in your neighborhood or yard, experts said there is no need to panic and no need to call animal control right away.  Generally, a bear will leave on its own, and if you keep potential food sources off your property, they will not return.

More information on Virginia black bears can be found here.