Black Bear Spotted Roaming Through Northern Virginia City Streets

by Taylor Cunningham
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A young black bear has been causing some excitement in recent weeks after multiple people spotted it roaming through several northern Virginia cities.

According to Paige Pearson, a spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, this particular animal, a male, has wandered through Vienna, Oakton, Fairfax, Reston, and McLean. And most recently, he moved into Tyson, which isn’t known for bears sightings.

Pearson noted that he’s harmless. And if people leave him alone, he’ll extend the courtesy.

“He’s just wandering around looking for food and probably took a few wrong turns,” she shared.

“While bears only occasionally wander into more urbanized areas,” she continued, “it is not an abnormal behavior for a bear to travel into such areas in search of easy-to-obtain, human-sourced food.”

The state does have a healthy black bear population. However, the animals typically stick to less populated areas with plenty of parklands that they can use for refuge. But as winter approaches, they’re beefing up for hibernation. So they’re more willing to brave human interaction to search for food in bird feeders, unsecured trash, and beehives.

Overall, there have only been four reported sightings of any bear in Tyson’s Fairfax County since spring. And Pearson said that goes along with previous year counts. So nothing out of the ordinary is going on with the Virginia bear population.

Virginia Officials Ask People to Help Keep the Bear out of Neighborhoods

News of the uncommon visitor is making residents curious. But Pearson warns against intentionally attracting bears or any wildlife to their homes. Doing so can make them dependent on human-provided food, which is dangerous for both the people and the animals.

She also asks people to go a step further and prevent this particular animal from coming onto their property. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and they can sniff out meals with five times more accuracy than humans.

They’re most attracted to fruit trees, pet food, and compost piles. They also love to pull meat remnants and drippings off of grills. Once a scent attracts them to a yard, they’ll forage and discover less pungent food sources, such as bird seed.

“We are asking neighbors to temporarily remove any outdoor food sources to help keep this young bear wild and encourage it to safely move on,” Pearson added.

To keep bears at bay, people should temporarily remove bird feeders and keep trash cans inside until the morning of pickup. They should also feed pets inside and only dole out one serving if that’s not possible. Also, never leave food on porches, decks, patios, or in cars. Also, carefully clean grills after every use.