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Young black bear spotted in Tysons, elsewhere in Fairfax County

Wildlife experts said the bear is looking for food and has also been seen in Vienna, Reston, Oakton and McLean

Black bears in Virginia. (Paul McCroskey)

A young black bear has been spotted in the past few weeks in parts of Northern Virginia, and experts said it’s even been seen on the sidewalks of Tysons — a rare habitat for the furry creature.

Paige Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, said the same black bear has also been spotted in Vienna, Oakton, Fairfax, Reston and McLean.

“He’s just wandering around looking for food and probably took a few wrong turns,” she said.

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Bear sightings in such an urbanized area as Tysons are “infrequent,” she said.

“While bears only occasionally wander into more urbanized areas,” Pearson said, “it is not an abnormal behavior for a bear to travel into such areas in search of easy-to-obtain, human-sourced food.”

Bears are more often seen, she said, in McLean and Vienna, where there are more parks and greenways that the creatures use as travel corridors between spots or for refuge.

Reports to her department showed this particular bear that was seen in Tysons and elsewhere went into residential areas near homes and into yards, up on porches and decks. The bear, she said, was going to bird feeders, unsecured trash and beehives in search of food.

Officials said the bear sighting in Tysons is one of four in Fairfax County they’ve heard about since spring. That fits the average number of bear sightings they hear about each year in the area, according to Pearson.

While some people may think it is cool or fun to see wildlife up close and intentionally put out food to attract bears or other wildlife, experts said that’s not a good idea. It’s harmful to the animals, as they could eventually become dependent on human-provided food. They are, after all, wild animals and should be left alone.

Experts said bears come into a yard or dense area because they’re looking for food and are attracted there by scents such as remnants of grilled meat, fruit trees, pet food or compost piles. Once in a yard, they find the leftovers from grill drippings, for example, and then also discover spilled bird seed from a nearby feeder.

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Area residents, experts said, should take precautions to not attract bears to their neighborhoods.

“We are asking neighbors to temporarily remove any outdoor food sources to help keep this young bear wild and encourage it to safely move on,” Pearson said.

Follow these tips to avoid attracting black bears near your home:

  • Remove bird feeders from your yard.
  • Secure garbage. Keep trash in a locked shed or inside until the morning it is collected.
  • Feed pets inside or give them only a single serving if they’re fed outdoors, so there are no leftovers in a bowl. Store pet food where bears can’t see — or smell — it.
  • Don’t leave food on porches, patios or decks. Keeping food on a screened-in porch is not a “secure storage area from a bear’s point of view,” according to experts.
  • Clean your grill after each use, and don’t dump drippings into the yard.
  • Don’t leave food, trash or pet or livestock feed in your vehicle.