Black bears (Ursus americanus) are 5 to 6 feet long (nose to rump), typically stand 2.5 to 3 feet at the shoulder, and weigh 100 to 400 lbs. Body color ranges from dark brown to black with a light brown or tan muzzle.
Black bears generally pose little threat to humans, their property or pets. Black bears are naturally shy animals and not known for aggressive behavior. While bears are not commonly encountered in Fairfax County, multiple bear sightings are reported in the county each spring and summer as bears wander into residential areas in search for food.
Black bears are primarily active at dusk and dawn. Black bears in urban areas become primarily active at night.
Black bears breed in June or July and females breed only every other year. “Delayed implantation” occurs and female bears do not become pregnant until November or December. Gestation is 7 to 8 weeks.
Black bears establish dens in large hollow trees, brush piles, or upturned tree roots. Black bears hibernate early November through March or April, depending on food availability. Young bears become independent the following spring.
Black bears are omnivorous. A natural diet includes fruits, berries, plants, nuts, insects, small mammals and fawns. A modified diet can include farm crops, gardens, small livestock, beehives, bird feeder seeds, pet food and garbage.
Black bears inhabit wetlands, woodlands, suburban and urban areas of Fairfax County.
Reporting Human-Bear Conflicts
If you are experiencing a problem with a bear or wildlife, please contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) by calling the toll-free Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 855-571-9003. The DWR is the responsible agency for determining the appropriate actions to resolve human-bear conflict. Removal of a bear from an area is a decision not taken lightly, is normally a last result, and typically a consequence of human actions related to intentional or unintentional feeding. The Fairfax County Animal Protection Police do not take action to remove bears from neighborhoods.
For information on managing wildlife interactions and resolving human-wildlife conflicts, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is available toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday.This helpline is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services.