Park bear escaped, assisted by honey

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Like Winnie the Pooh, Smithfield’s bear was lured by honey.

It took the addition of honey to the pile of hot dog buns and peanut butter to finally persuade the black bear to brave the turned off electric fence and crawl through it to get to the food at Windsor Castle Park. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams said the food was gone the morning of June 12 and no more sightings of the bear had been reported by Thursday. 

Multiple people had spotted the bear, usually in the early morning. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The bear had been trapped inside the electric fence used to keep the town’s hired goats from running loose. It took several days after the fence was turned off for the bear to apparently figure out it was safe to get out. 

The goats are being deployed to eat English ivy and underbrush for a wooded area at the park.

Smithfield’s bear is one of a growing population statewide, which is now estimated at 18,000, according to Katie Martin, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

The Virginia Farm Bureau reported recently that bears are destroying crops — such as peanuts, corn and even cotton bales.

“They will eat anything and if it is tied down, they will try to figure out how to get it. Vegetative matter makes up 75 percent of their diet, including berries, nuts and fruit. The remainder of their diet consists of road kill, insects, fish and rodents,” said Martin. 

“Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for the damage farmers across the state are facing from bears,” said Stefanie Kitchen, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of governmental relations. “Producers are encouraged to contact and work with DGIF on a strategy that works best for their particular situation.”

Anyone experiencing issues with bears or other wildlife can call the toll-free wildlife helpline at 855-571-9003.  {/mprestriction}