Once upon a time, black bears vanished in Virginia. Though thousands roamed here in pre-colonial times, by the 1900’s the Commonwealth’s land had been mostly clear-cut for farming, and as bears found little natural habitat and themselves on the menu, they disappeared. The last bear of that era spotted east of the Blue Ridge mountains was in Albemarle County in 1910.
Over the next century, agriculture receded and forests began to regrow, the 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park (SNP) was established, hunting restrictions were imposed, and black bears gradually returned. Now the bears face a new challenge, because although they are still beloved by many Virginians as native wildlife, not everyone wants bears in their back yard.