Spring is the time when black bears and cubs emerge from their winter dens; typically between mid-March to early May in Virginia. A black bear and cub were spotted by a resident in the 1500 block of Windstone Dr., Vienna at around 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 20. This location is near Difficult Run Stream Valley Park and Wolftrap Stream Valley Park. The bears posed no problems or issues but did stay on the property for about an hour. Bears typically avoid humans, but may wander into residential areas in their search for food. Most often, bears will keep moving through an area once they fail in their attempts to find food. Mother bears are protective over their cubs. If encountered, bears and their cubs should not be approached. When sensing danger, a female bear will typically send her cubs up a tree and leave the area. In such cases, the female will almost always return to gather up the cubs when no people or pets are around, usually after dark. If a bear huffs or woofs, clacks its teeth, growls or slaps the ground, it is warning you that you are too close. The Fairfax County Wildlife Management Specialist and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggest residents take the following precautions to minimize encounters with black bears:
- Keep a respectful distance! In most cases, the bear will move on quickly.
- If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Do not approach, and bring your pets inside to provide the bear a clear path to leave your property.
- If you see a very small cub, do not try to remove it from the area or “save it.” The best way to encourage the bear not to return is to remove food sources.
- Do not store household trash, or anything that smells like food, in vehicles, on porches or decks.
- Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement.
- Take your garbage to the dump frequently.
- If you have a trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.
- Take down your birdfeeder for 3-4 weeks after the bear visits.
Unless the animal is sick or injured, or poses a threat to public safety, Animal Control Officers do not take actions to attempt to remove bears from a neighborhood. Black bears have a natural fear of humans, and in most cases, would rather flee than encounter people. You may contact the Fairfax County Animal Services Division, Animal Control Section at (703) 691-2131, for further information. Bear sightings should be reported to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries through the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003.
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