Black Bear Takes a City Stroll

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 23, 2008

A five-foot-tall black bear toured Fredericksburg over the weekend, startling residents but hurting no one as it surveyed the local fare.

City police said more than 30 residents starting Saturday afternoon called in reports of a bear on the move: trying to cross Interstate 95, pushing over a fence in a residential neighborhood, strolling by the Home Depot.

"I guess he's doing a little bit of sightseeing," said Jennifer Pack, dispatcher for the Fredericksburg Police Department.

This is the time of year that black bears, whose numbers are growing in Virginia and Maryland, are often seen out searching for food, said Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They prefer to eat berries and nuts, but they are "opportunistic," she said. As growing suburbs begin to merge with the bears' natural wooded habitats, they will snack on whatever they can find, she said.

If a black bear has been spotted in the area, the department advises residents to keep any appetizing treats, such as pet food or garbage, out of their yards. And those who encounter bears should give the potentially dangerous animals plenty of space and let them leave on their own terms.

Yesterday, Fredericksburg police responded to a call from some residents who discovered that the bang on their screen door came from the bear, who was probably drawn in by the smell of spaghetti sauce cooking in the kitchen, Officer Ted Hartung said.

The homeowner let out a shout, and the bear ran off past the tree line, where police could not find it, Hartung said. But it left "drool marks" on the door, he said.

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