Hay bales a playground toy for bears?

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Many people know that bears salivate at the sight of an unattended cooler. 

Now it’s time to add hay bales to their list of favorite unattended human accouterments. 

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Surry farmer Mike Pittman is battling an unseen bear, or bears, that are using his hay bales as a nocturnal playground. 

“They’re just playing with them,” said Pittman. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Pittman was clued in to the culprit, or culprits, by the unmistakable imprint of bear paws and claws in the white plastic that is wrapped around the bales. 

It appears the bears are gleefully ripping the plastic apart and pulling out all the hay. But that may be anthropomorphizing a bit, as who knows what they’re really thinking. 

Pittman says the bears also walk on top of the bales, and seem to try to push them around. 

“They’re like kids. I guess they get bored, they like to play too,” he said.

So far the bears’ nighttime fun time has messed up about a third of his “mushroom” bales, which weigh about 2,000 pounds and fetch $40 apiece. 

The bears also find the rolled bales attractive. They particularly like to pull a bale apart and smooth the hay across the ground. 

Pittman said he’s had this problem before, but not to this magnitude. 

Bears are getting more prevalent, he sighed. 

The bear population is growing in Virginia, and they are now found in at least 92 of 98 counties, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield also snared its own bear — literally — when it ended up inside the electrified goat pen. When the town tried to lure the bear out with bread and peanut butter, all it did was inspire the bear to bring back a friend for easy snacks. The bears have since moved on. Maybe to Surry.

Pittman has no idea how to stop the bears other than hunting, but that’s not his thing. 

He has friends that hunt and who have seen many bears this year on their infrared cameras. 

They want to have a crack at it, said Pittman.

Firearms bear season runs Dec. 2-21 in Surry and Isle of Wight counties. 

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries offers a kill permit for deer that destroy crops, which allows for hunting out of season. For bears, it is generally limited to commercial crops in the ground, but a request could be reviewed, according to the Department.  {/mprestriction}