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After Black Bears Spotted in Town, Tips on How to Handle Future Encounters

Black bears are often spotted in residential neighborhoods this time each year as yearling bears venture out to find homes of their own. They are easily attracted to yards and neighborhoods where food might be found. In the last week, at least four confirmed black bear sightings have been reported in the Washington, D.C., area.

The most recent sighting occurred in Northwest D.C on Tuesday, June 26. After collaboration between the Washington Humane Society, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and D.C. Department of Health, the bear was captured and taken to western Montgomery County where he was released into the wild.

“Black bears are timid animals and are not a threat to people,” said Lynsey White Dasher, Director of Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution. “In these instances, bears are just looking for resources to survive or a way out of town.”

The Humane Society of the United States is offering tips on how to prevent bears from getting too close and what to do if one makes his way into the backyard.

How to deter bears during the summer dispersal period:

  • Make trash cans inaccessible. Do not put trash cans outside at night, but if necessary, buy a “bear-resistant” trash can or enclosure for trash containers.
  • Rethink compost piles. Store compost in enclosed containers and avoid adding meat and dairy items.
  • Recycle wisely. If storing recyclables outside, use enclosed bins and thoroughly wash recyclables before putting them out.
  • Keep barbeque grills clean and as free of drippings as possible. Move the grill away from the house when not in use.
  • Bring in birdfeeders during spring and summer. Natural foods are abundant during these seasons, and feeding can be discontinued if visits from bears are a possibility. These yearlings are looking for easy food. Raise feeders or make it difficult to reach as another solution.

Black bears are wary of people, but in the unlikely event that you encounter one:

  • Never move toward a black bear to chase him away.
  • Make as much noise as possible by shouting or banging pot lids together.
  • Throw things at the bear.
  • Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms.
  • After the bear leaves, make sure to remove whatever attracted him to the location (barbeque grill, bird feeder, pet food, or garbage).

For a full list of tips, visit humanesociety.org/animals/bears/tips/solving_problems_black_bear.html. 

Media Contact: Samantha Miller: 301-258-1417; smiller@humanesociety.org