State investigates homeowner who killed black bear, orphaning cubs

AMHERST COUNTY, Va. — A Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) investigation is underway after an Amherst County homeowner shot and killed a black bear, orphaning her two cubs.

DGIF spokesperson Lee Walker said representatives spoke with the homeowner to address concerns over bears on his property. The homeowner, according to Walker, was told the bears were coming to find food — specifically bird food.

He was advised to remove bird feeders and was given rubber buckshot to use as a bear deterrent.

On June 5, a mother bear and two cubs walked back onto the property to eat from the bird feeder.

“In an attempt to haze the bear, the homeowner tried to shoot her with rubber buckshot – a technique sometimes used to discourage bears from returning to a property once the food source is removed. Unfortunately, the homeowner somehow mistakenly used regular buckshot instead of rubber buckshot, and the sow was killed,” a Wildlife Center of Virginia spokesperson wrote. “The homeowner was able to round up the cubs; a DGIF Bear Biologist and a Conservation Police Officer arrived at the scene that evening, and the cubs were transported to the Wildlife Center the following morning.”

The DGIF is investigating to see if any laws were broken in the killing of the sow.

Wildlife is on the move this time of year in Virginia, Walker said.

He said removing food sources was the best way to keep unwanted wildlife off your property.

“This is an appalling tragedy. This family had previously been told to remove their bird feeders and other bear attractants around their property. They did not, and this bear was shot for eating from the same bird feeder,” Jaime Sajecki, with the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said. “This is akin to putting out bait for an animal and then getting mad when he or she eats the bait.”

The orphaned bear cubs appeared to be doing well at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

“The cubs will be housed together in half of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, allowing them to see and smell the other cubs,” a spokesperson said. “They will remain separate from the other eight cubs now.”