Scaring Bears With Paintball Guns? - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Scaring Bears With Paintball Guns?

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Looking into a your backyard and seeing a bear is something that would scare many people.

One Salem neighborhood has had a number of bear spottings in the last month or so. The community asked state conservation officers what could be done about the problem, but officials said there is no plan to move the bear at this time.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries did give folks a few suggestions to keep bears away, and one of them got a lot of raised eyebrows.

The department suggested scaring bears off with a paintball gun. Dan Lovelace, a district wildlife biologist for the department, explained their reasoning behind that suggestion.

"The bear is aggravated by it," Lovelace said. "They want to get away from it and generally they will leave the area. Multiple exposures to paintball impacts might lead to it wanting to go somewhere else."

Not everyone agrees with this method. Joshua Trelease, owner of Tiger Paintball, says shooting a bear could do a lot more than just scare it away.

"It's a significant speed," Trelease said, "and it could have a dramatic effect when it hits a person or target or whatever you're shooting it at. To shoot at a bear, you could dramatically injure the bear if you shoot it in the eye."

While he's never shot a bear, Trelease has been hit with paintballs. He says he's not sure how being hit may cause an animal to react.

"If you were to shoot an animal, it could have a range of effects," he said. "You could irritate the animal and cause it to come toward you, you could injure the animal and scare it away."

Lovelace says it's important to make sure there's nothing like trash or bird food attracting the bears to your yard, and the paintball gun may not be necessary. It may also be worth considering that paint from the gun could be bringing those unwanted visitors even closer.

"Dogs like eating paintballs," Trelease said. "So that could be true for bears as well."