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The bird feeders at Stephan Picard's Thornburg home have become a favorite place for a black bear to eat.
Stephan Picard shouted at the black bear eating from his bird feeder on Sunday evening.
But the 200-plus pound bear wasn't intimidated. Picard said it looked at him as if to say, "I'm not done with my dinner yet. Give me a break."
That was at least the second visit by the bear to Picard's Spotsylvania County home near Interstate 95's Thornburg exit.
Earlier on Sunday, it toppled a 7-foot pole with bird feeders before being chased by Picard's three goldendoodles. It climbed a tree and then ran into the woods.
Picard knew the bear would return for the fallen birdseed, so he attached a game camera to a tree. He has pictures of the animal chowing down mere feet from his kitchen window.
The bear also rummaged through trash and tore through a hatch door to Picard's chicken coop. The seven chickens are fine. The bear seemed more interested in their grain.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries estimates the state's bear population at about 17,000 bears. That's a 9 percent increase over the last decade. The Fredericksburg area has a relatively low bear population.
Jaime Sajecki, the department's bear project leader, said the agency has received about 800 calls this year from Virginians who have seen bears.
That's a lot, she said, but sightings have slowed this fall because of an abundance of acorns for bears to feast on--away from people.
"They're spending up to 20 hours a day foraging," she said, noting that bears prefer to not be around people.
Unfortunately for Picard, the bear that trespassed on his property seemed to have a taste for birdseed.
It returned for a third time early Monday morning and tried to rip off a door to Picard's shed, which is attached to his chicken coop. The bear ran off after Picard shined a high-powered flashlight on it.
Picard took the day off from work Monday to repair some of the damage. He also put $200 worth of electric fencing around his chicken coop and may hang bird feeders on trees soon.
"Hopefully, he won't bother us tonight so I can get some sleep," Picard said.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Bird feeders are a favorite with bears, which eat seeds and nuts in the wild. Sajecki recommends taking down bird feeders for a few weeks if a bear shows up. She noted that in Virginia, no one is known to have been killed by a black bear or attacked without provocation.