In the last week, they've crushed a slew of bird feeders, knocked over a congregation of backyard beehives and pawed through at least one pool cover.
Virginia game officials said two adult black bears and two cubs, perhaps more, have made their presence felt in central Prince William County. In the last three weeks, they have made more than a dozen visits to homes in the forested Nokesville and neighboring Manassas area, always in search of food or water.
Black bear sightings are not uncommon in Virginia, particularly at this time of year, when the animals follow creek beds out of the mountains and start fattening up for winter hibernation. Some are killed in traffic; others find food and decide to stick around.
It's those repeat visits that are causing a bit of a problem for residents who have watched the animals trample their garden ornaments, strip pounds of seed from their bird feeders and sniff their greasy barbecue grills.
On Monday, officials set a trap laced with dog food and kitchen grease on Tommy Court, south of the Lake Jackson area, hoping to catch one of the marauders. Officials said Little Debbie cakes are a particular bear favorite, but, "Why spend $20 on pastries to feed a bear?" If they're successful, officials said the bear -- they think this one is a 175-pound adult male -- will be relocated to the Chester F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area in Fauquier County.
Virginia takes its bears seriously. It's against the law to feed bears, so they won't be enticed to take up residence in someone's back yard. Officials said there has never been an unprovoked attack on a human by a black bear in Virginia, and they'd like to keep it that way.
"We not just concerned about people encountering a bear, we're concerned about the bear," said Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries spokeswoman Julia Dixon. "It could be hit by a car. And it's just not good for bears to associate with people. If they lose their natural fear of people, it can become quite dangerous. That's when you have a bear banging on your front door."
It was a security light that alerted Freddye Traisnel, 60, to the black bear roaming around her Nokesville yard Sunday night.
She saw the bear's two cubs scamper off into the woods. But not the mother bear, who used her weight to destroy two bird feeders perched on 6-foot-tall stands. The bear ate the seed, then a hanging piece of suet.
Next up was the barbecue grill, which smelled like fish from dinner three nights prior.
"I knocked twice on the window," recalled Traisnel, explaining how she tried to scare off the bear. "She looked at me. I looked at her, and she just continued to eat."
Officials said black bears usually are frightened of people and don't confront them unless confronted. The best way to shoo one away, for example, is to make loud noises.
Want to keep bears off your property? Officials said you can start by removing bird feeders and keeping pet food inside. Unsecured trash cans containing smelly food are another favorite. The animals, notorious for having a sweet tooth, will raid the apples that have fallen from backyard trees.
The key is removing the food source. Then it's bye-bye Yogi.
"We don't have any killer grizzlies," said Lt. Phil Parrish, a Virginia game warden. "Just a black bear who wandered into the wrong area. In time, he'll wander back. He's just looking for something to eat."