‘What are the chances that you’re running into a bear in a bag?’: Arlington woman speaks on gruesome discovery

Residents of a quiet neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, were both horrified and perplexed after a dead adult black bear was found decomposing in a plastic bag along a local walking trail Friday night.

Arlington resident Sonia Nayar told WTOP that around 4:30 Friday afternoon, she was taking her 12-year-old son and their dog for a walk on the trail near North Adams Street and Spout Run Parkway — her dog was the first to sniff out something wrong.

“My dog went directly to the bag,” she said, “and there were a lot of flies and a strong smell. So I pulled my dog back and got a little closer, but not too close. And I saw something sticking out of the bag that I could tell was hair and an ear. But at that moment, I was like, ‘hair and ear of what?'”

A black bear was found in a plastic bag in Arlington, Virginia. (Courtesy Sonia Nayar)

Nayar said she took a few photos and left the area soon after. As she left, she was unsure what her next steps should be for this unusual situation.

“I knew it was probably a bear,” she said, “but what are the chances?”

Nearing 5 p.m. on a Friday night, Sonia could only reach the voicemail of the Arlington County Department of Health. Not sure who to call next, she decided to post what she had found on the NextDoor website and ask neighbors using the platform for advice. Several users told her to just call the police, who responded to the scene.

Members of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington were called in to take over at around 8:30 Friday night. Because it was dark, Sonia was asked to return to the park and help them find the spot where her dog had found the bear.

Even then, because of decomposition of the creature, there were doubts as to what had been found. AWLA’s initial announcement on Friday evening stated they suspected it was a dead dog. Sonia herself wasn’t convinced until the AWLA confirmed it later that night.

“What are the chances that you’re running into a bear in a bag? That is very low chances,” she said. “I even Googled that picture to compare with my picture of the ear … and it was exactly like the picture I took of it … but then you start thinking, OK, maybe animals can decompose and … just start, like, morphing into whatever.”

Nayar said that, because of the amount of wildlife in the area, her son was relatively unscarred by the experience.

“He was kind of sure it was a bear. We knew there was a bear wandering around the area a few weeks ago,” she said. “It’s random and not usual. Usually people are happy … like excited and happy to see a bear.”

For herself, Sonia said that coming across the gruesome scene caused some uneasy feelings.

“The day is beautiful, you’re just taking a walk and then, all of a sudden, you encounter something … So yeah, you jump quickly from one state of mind to another,” she said. “I had this uneasy feeling that something was wrong and I wondered, ‘How did this animal, this creature, end up in a bag?'”

A juvenile bear had been seen roaming through area neighborhoods as early as May 13. It is uncertain if those sightings have any relation to the current discovery.

“There are so many possibilities … there are people that could’ve done something [like this] on purpose. It could be an accident, or be someone that someone who accidentally hit it or something and they freak out and put it in a bag … It’s disturbing. Sad.”

The AWLA asks that anyone with information about the incident to contact them at (703) 931-9241 or animalcontrol@awla.org.

Below is the approximate location of where the deceased bear was discovered:

WTOP’s Valerie Bonk contributed to this report. 

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up