BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— Students at Virginia Tech were caught off guard when they saw a bear wandering around campus Thursday night.
Most of the action transpired near Cochrane Hall, where one of the dining facilities is located by the dorms.
“What I saw it was running around this little grassed area over here and people started coming up to it," said freshman Chase Hopkins showing WDBJ7 where the bear was roaming.
“I didn’t believe I at first I mean we’re in the middle of Blacksburg and the middle of campus, I didn’t expect to see apparently a full grown bear in the middle of where I live so it was shocking for sure," Hopkins said.
According to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, this may not be as shocking as you might think.
“Bears are out and about this time of year because they’re preparing for the wintertime," said state wildlife veterinarian Megan Kirchgessner. “When bears are seeking these high calorie foods, you will see them at different times of day in different locations than you may during the summertime when their behavior is very different because they’re not preparing for the winter.”
Kirchgessner said the department believes the adult female bear was likely searching for food and unfortunately picked a poor site. She said this is the time where bears are consuming 20,000 calories and gaining one to three pounds each day to prepare for their version of hibernation.
Thursday's event caused quite a commotion on campus. Hopkins said about a hundred students gathered around to watch as officials tried to safely remove the bear.
“We were just staring outside of the window for like 30 minutes and you could see people just sticking their heads out and it was just a really crazy scene," said student Justin Rocha.
A scene that caused the bear to run up and down two trees in the area out of fear of the crowd.
“It looked a little scared, it was running around all over the place," Hopkins said. "It never confronted anybody, it was just getting out of the way. It avoided people as much as it could.”
“If a bear is scared and terrified and the only way out of a situation is to fight their way out, that’s when we have negative interactions between humans and bears," Kirchgessner said.
Her best advice is to remain calm and to not run toward or away from a bear if you see one. Simply speak to it in low, deep tones, and let it know you are a human then slowly try to back away and it will likely do the same.
This is not what happened on campus, but Kirchgessner said it's a teachable moment for all of us. She said bears could be doing this through November while they prepare to settle down for the winter.
“It’s college kids being college kids, they’re going to do that just because they’re having fun, but I’m sure they’re going to learn from this experience," Hopkins said.
The Virginia Tech Police Department and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said they arrived between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. early Friday morning to remove the bear and release it into the wild. They emphasized that while she was cute, she is still a wild animal that should not be approached.
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