Conservation & Wildlife Management

Not only does this website offer real-world advice for Wintergreen property owners on bears as well as insightful research about wildlife, but the staff and volunteers can share their years of experience on “special situations” with not only bears, but all of the smaller inhabitants of the forests including insects.

Membership at The Nature Foundation is not required for advice and guidance.

The volunteer naturalists and professional staff of the The Nature Foundation manage the 6,000 acres of wilderness to ensure Wintergreen remains a beautiful, popular place. The foundation also works with hundreds of .5 acre sites belonging to individual property owners who want to enhance and preserve the natural treasure that is Wintergreen.

Call The Nature Foundation for worthwhile insights about your property or advice on how to protect and enhance the landscaping nature has provided.

Bear Safety

Keep Wintergreen Wild

Black bears are highly intelligent animals with an incredible sense of smell. They can smell potential food sources over great distances. They are opportunists, always looking for easy calories. This often leads hungry bears to dumpsters, garbage cans, or kitchens. When bears learn that garbage means food, they come back to it again and again, learning to associate humans and homes with food.

Garbage is unhealthy for bears. Their natural diet consists of berries, vegetation, roots, insects, grubs, mast (edible seed or fruit produced by trees and shrubs), and carrion. Garbage can cause injuries such as cuts and ingestion of harmful plastics, glass, or chemicals, as well as changing their natural behavior around people.

Once a bear is conditioned to eat garbage and other unnatural foods, the solutions all too often are fatal to the bear. Relocation can be unsuccessful, dangerous, and expensive, leaving an unfortunate solution of killing the “problem” bear.

One of the reasons bears and people come into contact at Wintergreen is improper care of garbage and other attractants such as bird feeders. Bears will not change their tendency to seek out easy meals so we must change our behavior. Make it your responsibility to make Wintergreen safer for human and bear residents.

If a bear is threatening, persistent, or aggressive call Wintergreen police at 911.

About Bears Around The House

Properly storing or securing residential garbage and other bear attractants is a proven method for discouraging bears and preventing nuisance problems around homes.

The following items attract bears: 
     • garbage cans 
     • pet food
     • compost piles
     • bird feeders
     • wildlife feeders
     • BBQ grills
     • petroleum products
     • fruit/nut trees
     • perfumed items (soap, suntan lotion, deodorant, etc)

Garbage: Store garbage inside until you are able to properly dispose of it. Ensure bins are properly sealed. Wash and clean cans, jars, and recycling where appropriate. Do not throw cooking oil or grease outside.

Compost: Use a proper compost bin. Turn your compost regularly; cover compost with leaves, lime, and soil to reduce odors. Don not put meat, fish, fat, oils, eggshells, or cooked food in your compost.

Yards and Property: Follow these guidelines to keep bears from becoming a problem around your home.
     • Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries strongly recommends that no one feed birds from April 1 to December 1. If a bear visits your birdfeeder during the winter months, remove the feeder for at least 2 weeks. If the bear visits your feeder again after removing the feeder, remove the birdfeeder permanently.
     • Clean barbecues after use. Cover and store indoors. (Do NOT take propane tanks indoors.)
     • Never leave garbage bags, regardless of content, in your yard. 
     • Lock your car doors. Bears can open the doors. Never leave garbage bags or any other food sources in your car. 
     • Don’t store food in outdoor freezers. 
     • Don’t leave coolers or other items that may contain food smells in your yard.
     • Keep first floor windows and windows accessible from decks shut.

Homeowner’s Checklist

Step 1.  Bear-proof your home …

Garbage: Keep garbage in the house, garage, shed until it can be taken to the dumpsters.

Bird Food: Do not feed birds from April 1 to December 1. If a bear visits your birdfeeder during the winter months, remove the feeder for at least 2 weeks. If after the two-week period of time, the bear visits your feeder again, remove the birdfeeder permanently. Keep ground free from seeds. Store extra bird food indoors.

Barbeque: Burn off the grill after each use and store in a secure area.

Pet Food: Bring pet dishes inside and clean up any spillage. Store pet food indoors.

Windows and doors: Close all first floor windows every evening or when leaving the house. Close any windows accessible from a deck every evening or when leaving the house. Secure your doors well.

Step 2. If you see a bear at your home …

Stay Calm. Remain calm and don’t panic. Often the bear is simply looking for food and will move on if it finds nothing to eat.

Keep Away. Keep away from the bear and go inside and bring children and pets indoors. Shut all accessible windows.

Don’t Approach. Never approach the bear and do not run away. Don’t act submissively by crouching down or whispering.

Warn Others. Warn others of the bear’s presence, without yelling.

If the bear climbs a tree … If the bear climbs a tree, keep people and pets away. When things quiet down the bear will come down and leave. Once the bear is safely out of the area, check the area to ensure there are no attractants available.

About Bears When hiking

Do Not Surprise A Black Bear

•  Hike in a group, most bears will leave an area once aware of your presence

•  Stay on established hiking trails and hike during daylight

•  Keep children close and within sight

•  Use extra caution when hiking near rushing water, into the wind or in the rain. A bear may not be able to hear or smell you coming.

Be alert: Watch for signs such as tracks, droppings, diggings, torn-up logs and scratched trees, which may indicate a bear is nearby.

:Use caution near natural bear foods: Blueberries, fruit trees, and dead animals are examples of food sources. If you come upon these items, use caution.

Dog safety: Your dog should be on a leash and never left unattended.

Watch for cubs: Bears become aggressive if they feel their young are threatened. Never get between a mother and her cubs.

Cyclists: Your speed and quietness can put you at risk for sudden bear encounters. Slow down through shrubbed areas and when approaching blind curves. Be alert and always look ahead.

If You Encounter A Bear While Hiking

Despite taking precautions, an encounter with a bear may occur. Remember that bears are complex intelligent animals and no two encounters are alike. Below are a few guidelines that can minimize your risk in bear encounter.

Stay calm: Think ahead and plan how to respond if you should encounter a bear.

Don’t run: A black bear can easily outrun you. Running may also trigger an attack response. Pickup small children and stay in a group to make yourself less vulnerable.

Leave the area or make a wide detour: If you cannot leave, wait until the bear moves out of the way and ensure the bear has an escape route.

The bear may approach or rear up on its hind legs: Bears are curious and is most likely trying to catch your scent. This is not necessarily a sign of aggression. Back away slowly.

Don’t drop objects, clothing, or food to distract the bear: Rewarding a bear for aggressive behavior will increase the likelihood that it will repeat that behavior.

Watch for aggressive behaviors: A bear may display aggression in the following ways: swing it’s head from side to side, making vocalizations such as huffs, snorts, whoops or moans, displaying teeth or claws, jaw popping, swatting at the ground, staring with eye contact, panting, or laying it’s ears back. These behaviors indicate the bear is stressed, acting defensively, and/or asking for more space. This is the most common kind of black bear aggressive encounter.

For More Information

     • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has an entire section of their website devoted to black bear biology and management practices, including a 20-minute video entitled Living with Black Bears in Virginia. Click to visit the DGIF website.

     • The book Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country by Linda Masterson, 2006, is book is available in The Nature Foundation’s shop.

Landscape with Native Plants

Easily Enhance And Improve Your Landscape With Native Plants

Interested in more flowers in the summer? Ferns? Fall colors? Native plants offer almost endless options although the unique climates of Wintergreen provide some challenges at times. (Tip: Most native plants that do well on the mountain work in the valley.) When you have questions call the volunteers and staff of The Nature Foundation for help in finding answers.

The volunteer naturalists and professional staff of the The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen manage the 6,000 acres of wilderness to ensure Wintergreen remains a beautiful, popular place. The foundation also works with hundreds of .5 acre sites belonging to individual property owners who want to enhance and preserve the natural treasure that is Wintergreen.

What to Do with an Injured and Orphaned Animal

With a little advice, you can successfully give aid to an animal in need. The first step is to know the local wildlife rescue groups and their contact information. Rockfish Wildlife Center, Wintergreen’s closest Wildlife Rescue and hospital is located in Shipman. Their hotline phone numbers are  434-263-4954 or 434-962-7429. The Wildlife Center of Virginia, which is located in Waynesboro has a 24 hour hotline at 540-942-9453. Having these phone numbers handy makes the difference saving an animal’s life. They will walk you through the proper procedure in rescuing an injured or orphaned animal. Each type of animal at different stages of their lives require different care. On the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary’s website you can learn exactly how and when to intervene with a possible injured or orphaned animal.  Below is their website link, so get acquainted with the spring activities and wildlife issues by reading their very informative advice and make a difference in keeping our wildlife alive and wild!

Whitetail Deer Management

The Nature Foundation assists Wintergreen Property Owners Association (WPOA) in the scientific survey and management of the whitetail deer population at Wintergreen. The first objective of the biyearly road survey is to determine the population of white-tailed deer on the developed area of the mountain resort.  After determining the importance of the population number, alternatives in population control methods are reviewed, developed and implemented by WPOA.

eMammal Wildlife Camera Tracking

Unique and Compelling Insights on Nature and Wildlife

In 2013, the Smithsonian Institution worked with The Nature Foundation on the eMammal project. The Nature Foundation’s Josh Palumbo and six foundation member-volunteers placed 18 motion-triggered camera traps at predetermined locations around the Wintergreen backcountry, in sets of 3 cameras–one on trail, one 50 meters off trail, and one 200 meters into the woods.

eMammal is a regional project where citizen scientists work in collaboration with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to document mammals throughout the mid-Atlantic region, and soon, the entire country. Citizen volunteers place “camera traps”, infrared activated cameras, across the landscape in parks and other natural areas to collect photos of mammals. These photos help researchers answer questions about mammal distribution and abundance and use this information for conservation.

The cameras take a photo every time its sensor detects body heat and movement. The photographs provide a rare look into the animal world. The hope is that the images will spark an interest in the animals, their habitats, and how to conserve them. The cameras were re-deployed to different locations over the course of the project, and all “captured” animals have been identified and submitted to the Smithsonian eMammal database. The Smithsonian will use this data to determine animal population density, and patterns such as whether certain animals prefer trails vs. woods, time of day of appearance, and even day of the week appearance to see whether heavier weekend hiker traffic affected animal behavior.

For more about the eMammal project and pictures from other deployments, see the Smithsonian’s eMammal facebook page and their eMammal website.

Worried about being caught on camera? Don’t be. Each camera trapper signed an agreement that does not allow distribution or publication of any pictures of people. While sometimes animals would show on camera an hour before or after hikers were on the trails, at no time did we see evidence of animals stalking humans, nor did we expect to. 

See some of the photos from the foundation’s eMammal project here.