For 10 years, a Virginia man has been secretly feeding bears “to keep them safe from poachers” — a violation of the state’s “bear no-feeding” law, wildlife authorities say.
But they say they recently cracked the mysterious case in the Shenandoah region’s Warren County.
Officers with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) said they had repeatedly received complaints over the last decade from residents in the Linden, Va., area complaining of bear activity in the area.
The bears had caused “thousand of dollars of property damage” to homes, they said. Experts had set traps and tried to remove the bears, but they always returned.
Officers with the DGIF eventually searched the man’s property and found he had a privacy fence that blocked the view from the road. Authorities identified him as 58-year-old Jeffrey Sylvia.
The fence made it tough for anyone, including law enforcement, to see what he was going on for “many years” behind the fence, DGIF officials said in a statement.
Sylvia had been “purposely feeding, and thereby conditioning, bears to human food sources on his property,” wildlife officials said.
Officials said he later told them he had been spending over $10,000 a year on food for the bears “in order to keep them safe from poachers and help ‘sick and injured’ ones,” according to a statement from DGIF.
On Wednesday, officials said Sylvia had been charged with a misdemeanor and fined $500.