With springtime here, authorities warn of increase in bear sightings

Authorities say a bear was spotted in Vienna on Tuesday and Fairfax County police want people to know they could be attracting the bears without knowing it.

It is that time of year when bears are making their way into our backyards again. The more people move into bear territory, the more we have to learn to live side-by-side with them and how to not attract them.

Tuesday's bear sighting in Fairfax County is just a reminder that bears are emerging from their winter habitats and are on the hunt for food.

Bear sightings are nothing new to the D.C. area and they generally do not cause too much harm. But a chilling 911 call by a Frederick County, Maryland woman last year after a bear attack is a reminder that they can be dangerous. Thankfully, the woman survived the attack.

Even though the encounters are rare, early spring is when the Department of Natural Resources begins to hear about more bear sightings.

"They are going to be looking for those easy food sources," said Harry Spiker, a bear biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "There is not much natural food out there yet. Plants aren't green yet, so they are going to come into bird feeders, trash cans and whatever easy food sources they can get."

Bears can be very resourceful when they are hungry. Trash cans are an easy target. Experts recommend residents to store them in a secure building when not in use and to put trash cans out the morning of collection instead of the night before.

"We have got bears and people living together sharing this landscape every day," said Spiker. "It is really nothing to be afraid of, but it makes sense to be mindful."

Wildlife experts say to keep your grill clean and burn off any food remnants - or wheel it into an outdoor shed.

Also, do not leave pet food outdoors. Only put out enough food for one feeding at a time.

It is also recommended that people do not put meat scraps in compost piles.