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It’s been a good week for furry fugitives in the District. Just two days after Rusty the red panda staged a prison break from the National Zoo, a small black bear led D.C. police on a 90-minute chase through Northwest D.C. this morning.
The bear, which weighed less than 100 pounds and was deemed “harmless” by animal control officials, was finally caught by the Washington Humane Society, D.C. police, and the Department of Health in a Palisades backyard around 10:30 a.m. After a brief period in the custody of the Humane Society, the bear was released back into the wild in western Montgomery County and is now “shaking it off and wondering what he’s gonna eat next,” says WHS vice president Scott Giacopo (black bears consume up to 12,000 calories a day—-the equivalent of about two dozen Astro creme brulee doughnuts).
The escaped animal/Edward Snowden cracks got old quickly after the red panda incident, but it’s worth addressing a more pressing issue raised by the baby black bear’s capture: What on earth was a baby black bear doing in D.C.?
Turns out District residents should consider investing in tougher garbage cans, because black bears aren’t all that uncommon in the area. While local bears are most frequently found in western Maryland and the more wooded parts of Northern Virginia, Giacopo says the Humane Society gets about five reports of bear sightings in the District each year, though it’s rare for WHS to actually catch one.
If you spot a bear in your backyard, it’s most likely an American Black Bear—grizzlies aren’t found this far east. Black bears are identifiable by their small eyes, long snout, and shaggy black fur (kind of like Alan Rickman as Snape). They’re also much less combative than grizzlies, so unwanted bear visitors can be easily scared off by a blowing a whistle, banging pots and pans, or playing Nickelback at full volume.
Image courtesy the Washington Humane Society