Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yes, Virginia! There is a Santa Claus...and bears in Rockingham County!

This story is from this morning's News & Record (Greensboro, NC). It is about a mama bear and her three cubs (pictured to the left...yes, that's some of them) that scampered up a tree over the weekend in Madison, which is in the western section of my county. Reason they were there? Oh...I don't know...could it be...HONEY? Read on. By the way, I'm glad that I'm a city beekeeper!


The family of bears likely came looking for honey but instead found themselves up a tree, held hostage by neighbors near Old Wagon Trail.

The first sightings of the bear and three cubs came about dusk Sunday, and by Monday morning, they had an audience.

But by 1 p.m., the bears had enough of the show and decided to bid their temporary refuge goodbye.

“I guess they decided to take a chance and run,” said Josh Brim, who lives on Old Wagon Trail.

The Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office said it began receiving calls about the bears Sunday evening. Sheriff’s office spokesman Dean Venable said deputies, animal control and wildlife officers took a look at the bears but hoped they would come down on their own.

When the bears didn’t, the officers returned Monday to see what could be done to coax them.

“It’s not uncommon to see a bear in some of our rural areas,” Venable said. “We’ve lost a lot of our timberland, and they’re coming in to hunt food.”

The area where the bears were found is rural, located off U.S. 311. Old Wagon Trail is a gravel road with just a few homes.

The bears climbed up trees on the property of DeWitt and Darlene Brown. The couple thinks mama bear may have smelled honey for her cubs.

DeWitt Brown raises bees and said bears will “tear your hives all to pieces.”

Darlene Brown thinks the bears’ quest for food was derailed by the barking of her dogs, a black lab and a collie.

The dogs’ lot is next to the trees where the bears sought refuge. Had it not been for them, Darlene Brown guesses, the bears would have had a field day with her husband’s hives.

The sheriff’s office reported seeing a mom and two cubs, but the Browns and Brim said a third cub was in a second tree.

In the end, Sheriff Sam Page said it only took giving the bears a little space — and quiet — to get them to descend the trees.

The barking dogs were moved, and someone operating machinery nearby was told to turn it off, he said. Onlookers were kept back as much as possible.

DeWitt Brown said he’s not worried about the mom and cubs coming after his honey again.

“She’s had so much excitement,” he said. “I think she’s gone from here.”


  1. Waaay cool! Great pic of the bears. It's so much fun to see them, as long as they stay away from the hives. My dogs are averaging about 3 nights a week now barking and scaring them off. Still not convinced the electric fence is going to deter if they get in the garden. I saw our resident mama bear up the road last week and she probably weighed 300 pounds. Didn't see the cubs this time, but am sure they were somewhere close.

    I hope the beekeeper is right and that this little family will move on. Glad the authorities didn't get all crazy and shoot them.

  2. Thanks, Lynn!

    I have to hand it to Sheriff Sam Page, a really smart man, he knew how to react to this. I've worked with Sam on and off since 1984, and he figured that mama would leave and take her children if she got some room. And she did.

    Unlike the Winston Salem Police who gunned a bear down that was rambling in the trash there, and the chief said they did that to keep it from hurting someone. But even state wildlife officers said that bears attacking people in this state are very rare and didn't agree with the WSPD.

    I thought about you when I posted this story! Just think, the bear here is one less bear to mess with your hives! :)

  3. Jeez! That's truly incredible. I heard about the presence of, and precautions required with, bears when I was on holiday in California a few years ago but, for some reason, they don't seem real. That's clearly my European naivety!

    My two dogs bark when a car pulls up front but that's the extent of their protection force! No major wildlife to contend with.

  4. Greetings Cliff!

    I don't have any real wildlife here either, maybe the occasional deer passing by..or skunks, opossums and raccoons from time to time. Its the luck of being a city beek I suppose. I'm more worried that a field mouse my invade my hive than a bear.

    We do have bear sighting here in my county, which is almost 600 square miles in size -- just about one or two a year. Usually they're just passing through though.

    I think most of the NC bears hang out up around Lynn's place in the mountains so they can sample some of that tempting Walter Bee gold! :)

  5. Wow, I'm not sure how I'd feel about bears around our place- but wouldn't accept tearing up my hives! Not something to worry about here though based on populations. We have fox, coyote, skunk, racoon, 'possum and the like but none have bothered the hives yet. Though the dog did get sprayed the other week...



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