Be Bear Aware this Spring

Bear 1You may be sleeping in and sticking closer to home these days, but for bears in Virginia, it’s time to end their hibernation and start doing the things that bears do.

Bear sightings are not common in Fairfax County, but there are usually a few bears spotted each spring and summer as they wander into residential areas in search for food.

Bear 2Black bears and cubs emerge from their winter dens in the state from March through May. They usually try to avoid humans, but the aroma of your food may be too hard to resist. Bears may be drawn your bird feeders, garbage, outdoor pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, beehives and berry-producing shrubs.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Fairfax County wildlife management specialist recommend the following simple steps to reduce your chances of encountering a black bear in your neighborhood:

  1. Secure your garbage in bear-resistant trash cans or store it in a secure building.
  2. If you have trash collection service, put your trash out the morning of the pickup, not the night before.
  3. Do not store household trash, or anything that smells like food, in vehicles or on porches or decks.
  4. Remove bird feeders if a bear is in the area and keep them down for 3-4 weeks. Birdfeeders are a common lure for bears in Fairfax County.
  5. Keep your grill clean. Do not dump drippings in your yard.
  6. Don’t put meat scraps in your compost pile.
  7. Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  8. Make sure your neighbors are following the same recommendations.

Bear 3Black bears usually detect you and move on before you ever see them, but if you do encounter a bear, heed these suggestions from officials:

  • Respect the bear’s space. If you see a bear, enjoy watching from a distance.
  • Never run from a bear. Running could prompt the bear to chase. If in a group, stay together and make sure that any dogs stay leashed.
  • If a bear is up a tree on or near your property, give it space. Do not approach, and bring your pets inside to provide the bear a clear path to leave your property.
  • If the bear hasn’t seen you, calmly leave the area, while making a bit of noise so the bear will not be surprised by you.
  • If the bear has seen you, back away slowly while facing the bear.
  • If a bear huffs or “woofs,” clacks its teeth, growls or slaps the ground, it is warning you that you are too close.
  • Never feed a bear under any circumstances. In Virginia, it is illegal to feed bears on both public and private lands.

Report your bear sightings to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries through the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 855-571-9003, TTY 711. Unless the animal is sick or injured, or poses a threat to public safety, the Fairfax County Animal Protection Police do not take actions to remove bears from a neighborhood. Black bears have a natural fear of humans, and in most cases, would rather flee than encounter people.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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