Survey of Northern Virginia Residents on Their Awareness, Knowledge & Attitude Toward Black Bears



Beichler, Andrew

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Within the past 20 years, the range of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Virginia has expanded significantly. Today, they can be found in almost every county of the state, including heavily populated regions of Northern Virginia. This means that the possibility of human-bear interactions is much higher, which can lead to property damage or physical harm for either man or animal. Using a modification of a 2010 general survey from the VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries as a basis, we surveyed residents of Northern Virginia counties on their awareness, knowledge, and attitudes towards black bears. The survey was conducted online through Qualtrics ©, and was distributed to Mason students, faculty, and staff via email. We specifically targeted residents of Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax, and Fauquier counties. When comparing our results with the 2010 survey, our respondents’ answers did not have significant differences with those from the other survey. Northern Virginia residents and Virginia residents generally do not understand very much about bear behavior, but have a positive attitude towards black bears in their state. The vast majority of our respondents disagree that shooting a bear that’s been attracted to their property will solve the problem, and say they are comfortable having bears in their counties or closer. At the same time, Northern Virginia residents are not very aware of how common black bears are in their counties. Based on our results, there is an open need for a black bear education program for Northern Virginia residents to help ensure positive co-habitation of our species.



Black bears, Ursus, Attitudes, Virginia