It’s tough-love time for young black bears in the Washington region.
Come summertime, mother bears kick their 2- and 3-year-olds out of the den to make room for future offspring. They’ve learned survival skills, Mom figures, so now it’s time to hit the road to find a new home and a mate.
That’s not so easy when your nearest environs are inhabited by humans, as one young bear realized Wednesday morning when it found itself the subject of a chase through the “wilds” of the Northwest’s Palisades neighborhood.
“We were going over fences, going through thornbushes,” said Scott Giacoppo, a spokesman for the Washington Humane Society’s Animal Care and Control, which handled the bear’s capture as well as the search for the National Zoo’s missing red panda earlier this week.
About 10:30 a.m., the bear was found and tranquilized. “He seems okay,” Giacoppo said, noting that the search team crossed through dozens of properties. “He put up a good run.”
Several bears have made their presence in the area known the past two weeks. One was spotted Monday in Vienna, and another sighting was reported in Bethesda the next day. Earlier this month, one was seen strolling through Gaithersburg.
“No one’s going to believe me if I don’t take a picture,” said McLean resident Diane Casey-Landry, who on Monday reported that a bear had climbed onto her deck.
May through July are peak months for bear movement, according to Sgt. Brian Albert of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Two bears in the Washington area is normal, said Scott Bates, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, but four or five would be atypical.
Those who have seen the bears agree.
Janalee Redmond of Bethesda said she spotted a bear Tuesday night through the window of her home on MacArthur Boulevard. Redmond and her husband, John, were watching television about 8:30 p.m. when “this black shape” lumbered by the window, she said.
“It took me a minute to realize what I was seeing,” she said. She couldn’t tell if it was a male or female, but she was sure it was a bear.
They hurried to the next room to snap a photo of it. “He was just kind of looking around, ambling along,” Redmond said.
When the bear had moved away from the house, she opened the sliding-glass door and whistled at it. It looked around, seemingly confused, before lumbering into the bamboo behind their house.
“It’s a surprise to see him,” Redmond said. They often see deer, foxes and other animals in the area, but a bear is unusual. “I’ve lived here almost 20 years and never seen a black bear here.”
The bear caught Wednesday, which Animal Control officials described as a year and a half old, weighing 100 pounds and “very harmless,” was caught near a residence in the 4900 block of Indian Lane.
Initially, it was spotted running on Rockwood Parkway about 9 a.m. Police closed several streets in the neighborhood, and drivers and pedestrians were urged to avoid the area while Animal Control officers searched for the animal. It was caught at 10:30 a.m.
The bear was released into western Montgomery County about two hours later, Giacoppo said, guessing that it was the same bear that had been in Bethesda the day before.
Kathryn Kincaid, 51, was walking her dog on Indian Lane after the bear was taken away.
“I had no idea” there was a bear in the area, she said. “Raccoons are what you’re usually worried about.”
Kincaid normally lets her dog out on her property, a few streets away from the scene, but now she’s not sure if she’ll still do that.
“I find it hard to believe that a black bear is harmless,” she said.
Carpenter Jeff Lunin, 51, was working on Indian Lane on Wednesday when he saw the black bear cross the street about 50 yards away.
Lunin said he’s no stranger to wildlife, but he was still shocked.
“You don’t expect to see it when you’re walking down the street,” he said.
Mark Berman contributed to this report.