A bear was reported near Damascus along the Magruder Branch Trail on Monday, said Lt. Rick Pelicano, who is with the Maryland National Capital Park Police Montgomery County Division.
Pelicano said a caller reported seeing a “dark” bear along the trail on Monday, but did not provide more specific details. Pelicano said the sighting would be reported to Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Harry Spiker, a bear biologist with the state department, said DNR hadn’t received any reports of bear sightings in Montgomery County, but he said such sightings weren’t unusual this time of year.
Spiker said this is the time of year that mother bears kick out their 14- to 16-month old cubs in order to start mating.
“It’s how Mother Nature prevents bears from inbreeding,” Spiker said.
The ousted cubs have been known to roam as far as 100 miles from home. Bears who wind up in Montgomery County have typically come from Western Maryland.
“They’re not aggressive by nature,” Spiker said.
Aggressive or not, Damascus resident Nick Augustine said the bear sighting has made him change his habits. He runs on Magruder Branch Trail everyday, but now he’s thinking of only going when there are lots of people around.
He said his neighbor was stared down by a bear while she was running on the trail. She reported the sighting to park police.
“If it’s a cute little cub that’s one thing,” Augustine said. “But mama bear? That’s a whole other thing.”
Pelicano and Spiker said people should avoid leaving trash outdoors — bears main aim is finding food — and should even take precautions with bird feeders and avoid leaving pets out.
Spiker said the best thing to do is to think of an encounter with a bear the same way as an encounter with a stray dog. People should also avoid cornering bears and should never run from them.
“Bears have a chase reflex,” Spiker said.
Spiker said that over time, bears who roam into Montgomery County eventually make their way back west, to the company of other bears.