CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A family of black bears hung out in a tree on, ironically enough, Bruin Drive in Chesapeake for hours on Monday, becoming stars of their namesake domain.
Crews blocked off the road and waited as the momma bear (about 150 pounds) and her three cubs (one 70-pound male and two 40-pound females) sat and napped, seemingly scared to come down and deal with the people and fuss in the suburban world below.
The bears did come down after about 15 hours for a brief time, but quickly climbed back up, per Paige Pearson with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
They would bide their time until around midnight, when the cover of darkness gave them the ideal chance to get out of the residential neighborhood down the street from Western Branch High (which, yes, is also the home of the Bruins).
Video from Chesapeake police shows the bears back down on the ground and scurry across the street — hopefully toward a calmer home with fewer people.
Yvette Massie, the owner of the property the bears visited, hasn’t been feeling her best. This is why she says she was up at 3:40 a.m. Monday and heard a commotion outside.
“I heard some voices out front,” said Massie. “Then I looked out the window and I see a guy in his car and he’s driving past with his cell phone. I look out the window and I see a baby bear and it’s going up the tree.”
Massie called her husband and they watched from the window as a family of bears made themselves comfortable in their front yard tree. Later in the morning, they got ahold of animal services.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources planned to stay in the area until the bears came down from the tree, instead of tranquilizing them. Pearson said tranquilizers bring risks and the height of the tree made things difficult.
“My biggest concern was I didn’t want the bears hurt and I didn’t know what they would do, I knew that they would care for the bears but I just wanted to make sure that the bears were ok so they were able to tell me that the bears would be fine,” said Massie.
Once night fell, the bears decided to leave, but not before a midnight snack.
“They came down and the younger bears were playing,” said Massie. “They took the bird feeder off. They snatched it off, then they went on the side of the house and they start taking the trash.”
This is when state biologist with DWR Todd Englemeyer flashed lights to scare the bears away from the trash. The bears scurried back up the tree, Englemeyer secured the trash, and a few hours later, the bears ambled down and left for good.
Englemeyer says they believe the bears came from the Great Dismal Swamp in search of food and that’s likely where they returned to.
Police say the first call about the bears came in around 8:50 a.m., but they were spotted wandering around the area hours before. Branton Joaquin caught the bears on a security camera crawling through his backyard at 2:45 a.m.
“I came out and I’m no tracker or anything like that but I know a paw print when I see one. I could see down here that the bear had come up here and probably jumped onto the tree,” said Joaquin.
After making their way through Joaquin’s yard, the bears nestled themselves in his neighbor’s tree. WAVY viewer Kim Ivory sent in photos showing the bears high up in the tree.
“Black bears can be unpredictable, especially when sows (mothers) have cubs,” the city wrote online. “This is an extremely stressful situation for the bears, so it’s important to stay away from the area. That includes driving past the site.”
There was a steady stream of curious onlookers throughout the day.
“We’ve been hearing a lot on the neighborhood app that there’s been bear sightings. But really more in the little more rural areas you know. So I wasn’t really expecting it here. So it’s a surprise. We’re all having fun,” said Naida, a resident of the neighborhood.
Bears are not uncommon in Chesapeake/Suffolk due to their proximity to the swamp, but Bruin Drive is pretty far up (several miles north of the edge of the swamp) and across I-664 in a busy residential area. Typically bears in Chesapeake are found around the Deep Creek area adjacent to the swamp.
The department thanked neighbors for their help.
“DWR is gracious to the homeowner and local authorities for the help in making sure these bears went safely back to their natural habitat.”
Joaquin was concerned about the bears possibly coming back, though.
“I think this is cool but I could do without it,” Joaquin said. “I think what I’m most concerned about is coming out in the middle of the night to let the dog out, and they’re back here, and I surprise them. You know that probably won’t go so well for me and the dog.”
For more information on bears in Virginia, click here.
And while you’re here, WAVY has a good amount of past bear coverage! There were a few spotted in 2020, including at least two sightings in Virginia Beach and one that frequently roamed a Suffolk neighborhood.
And then we can never forget the “Shadowlawn Bear” that was found by WAVY’s Andy Fox in Virginia Beach a decade ago.