ROANOKE, Va. -

As we head into the fall season, many people are having some unwanted visitors show up in their yards.

A number of WDBJ 7 viewers have sent bear pictures to the newsroom so we wanted to find out why we're seeing so many in our neighborhoods.

Wildlife experts said when you live in the mountains, or as they call it "bear country," you're going to see bears everywhere, but this year is a little bit different.

Diane and Vern Ferguson have lived along Florist Road in Roanoke County for more than 20 years and have never seen a bear in their backyard, but that all changed last weekend.

"We're staying inside when he's out here," said Diane. "I'm not going out to meet him. Believe me."

The Fergusons watched through their kitchen window as a 200 pound bear tore down their bird feeder that was cemented into the ground. They also walked outside the next morning to find their trash can had been opened and moved halfway down their driveway.

The Fergusons are just one of many in the region that have come face to face with the animal recently.

Berkeley Dent also walked outside his home and found his leftover dinner scraps spread along his driveway and claw marks on his trash can.

"We've had problems with raccoons so I didn't think a raccoon could get a bag out and take off with it so we assumed it was something a little bigger," he said.

WDBJ 7 viewers in Roanoke, Franklin, Craig and Botetourt counties are all seeing bears almost everyday and here's why.

"The nights are getting colder, the bears are starting to fatten up for the winter hibernation and with the low acorn crop there hasn't been as much food for them to

stay up there," said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Officer Joseph Williams.

Williams said there are more bears in our neighborhoods than usual because Mother Nature isn't giving them what they need to survive in the woods.

He said acorn, nut and berry crops aren't as good this year and that's why the bears are traveling into neighborhoods to find food sources.

"They don't have their normal, high calorie nuts," he said. "They aren't producing like they have in the past so they don't have the food source to hold them in the mountains."

Williams said once a bear knows it can find food somewhere it will keep coming back for more.

Experts said your best bet is to get rid of any and all food sources such as bird feeders.

Homeowners need to be proactive in managing the food and trash they throw out or put on the curb.

You should also try and bungee cord your trash can shut. Another tip is to soak a rag in ammonia and let half of it hang outside of the can. Experts said it will deter the animal from trying to get inside.

Some municipalities, like Roanoke County, offer special trash cans that lock so bears can't get into them.

You can also bang on a pot or pan to scare the bear aware, according to Williams.

The bears are preparing for hibernation and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the fatty foods they need so they can pack on the pounds.