Virginia Bear Sightings: What to do if you see a bear and ways to keep them off your property

Northern Virginia black bear sightings are becoming a little too close for comfort this year!

Over the weekend, video was taken of a black bear that was spotted roaming the streets of Tysons. Another video from Vienna shows a black bear walking through a backyard patio – within feet of an unsuspecting resident!

Authorities say the sightings started coming in about a week ago. According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources - bear sightings are common throughout much of the state. The bears are often attracted by the smell of food around homes - including birdfeeders, garbage, and pet food, officials say. They can also be attracted by outdoor grills, livestock food, compost, fruit trees, and beehives.

Here's what Virginia DWR officials say you should do to keep bears off of your property and what to do if you see a bear or spot bear cubs near your home:

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What should you do if you see a bear?

-Enjoy and 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. Never run from a bear.

What should you do if a bear is consuming bird seed, garbage, pet food, etc. on your property?

-The best way to encourage the bear not to return is to remove the food source.

-Do not store household trash, or anything that smells like food, in vehicles, on porches or decks.

-Use bear resistant trash containers or retrofit your existing container.

-Keep your full or empty trash containers secured in a garage, shed or basement.

-Take your garbage to the dump frequently or if you have a trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.

-It is best not to put out birdfeeders between April 1 and November 1, but if you do and a bear accesses the feed, you must take down your birdfeeder for 3-4 weeks after the bear visits.

-Consider installing electric fencing, an inexpensive and extremely efficient proven deterrent to bears, around dumpsters, gardens, fruit trees, beehives, or other potential food sources.

-If addressed quickly, this situation can be resolved almost immediately after you remove the food source. Sometimes, the bear may return searching for food, but after a few failed attempts to find it, will leave your property.

What do I do if I see a bear cub on my property?

-Until mid March–May, sows with cubs are typically in dens. Most small bears people see in early spring are not actual "baby bears" but yearlings (>12 months old). They do not need their mothers to survive.

-If a small yearling is on your property, the worst thing you can do is feed it. Yearlings need to learn how to find natural foods and not become food conditioned or habituated to humans.

-Once females leave their dens with 3 to 5-month-old cubs, they will typically travel in close groups unless something makes the female nervous. If you see a very small cub, do not try to remove it from the area or "save it." When sensing danger, a female bear will typically send her cub(s) up a tree and leave the area. She is attempting to divert the danger away from her cub(s). These trees are called "babysitter trees". In such cases, the female will almost always return to gather up the cub(s) when no people or pets are around, usually after dark. A female bear can be up to 4 miles away from the cub while it is at the "babysitter tree".

Call the Wildlife Conflict Helpline at (855) 571-9003 to report a bear sighting.