VIRGINIA (WJHL) — Colder weather signals hibernation season for black bears, and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is giving the public tips on what to know if they encounter a bear’s den.

A release by the Virginia DWR says black bears enter winter dens as food sources become less abundant, however depending on the region and other factors such as weather, some may remain active throughout the season.

The release states black bears will typically make dens out of brush piles, trees and cavities within them, debris piles and occasionally under porches or unsecured crawl spaces. Bears that enter a winter den are often females with cubs or preparing to birth cubs, the release goes on to say.

People can take steps to avoid a den before they come across one by staying clear of dense thickets when hiking, as well as keeping their dogs leashed to lessen the chances of an encounter.

Virginia DWR says anyone who finds a bear den should leave it alone and avoid the area. The release says sometimes a bear will leave a den if they feel pressured, and in that case, individuals should never return to the den they encountered.

More information on black bear dens and tips to steer clear of them can be found on the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ website and social media.