2nd black bear in a year enters DC’s Brookland neighborhood

A black bear was spotted in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood on May 8, 2024. (Courtesy James Warner)
Neighbors in the Northeast D.C. neighborhood have been tracking the bear’s whereabouts. (Courtesy James Warner)

Residents of D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood have welcomed a new neighbor and are curious about their whereabouts.

A black bear was first spotted in the Northeast community Wednesday morning, with social media posts showing the furry intruder wandering around homes on Newton and Otis streets.

One of those homes belongs to Laura Wilkinson Behrens, who did not see the bear in her front yard until a neighbor posted a photo on X. No damage was done to her property.

Since then, the mother of twin toddlers told WTOP she and her neighbors have been tracking the animal’s every move, giving each other updates in real time. It is believed the bear is hiding out in the nearby park area at Fort Bunker Hill.

“Lots of people were out, trying to spot it,” Wilkinson Behrens said. “We were tracking it back through the yards, sending pictures to each other and seeing where it was.”

It is the second time in a year that a bear has wandered into the Brookland area. In June of 2023, a black bear captivated residents with its journey through the D.C. region, including a pit stop to perch in a tree on Franklin Street before the animal was safely captured and released back into the wild.

Wilkinson Behrens told WTOP that while humans and bears can coexist, she is concerned why they are leaving their habitat. The neighborhood has been home to deer and foxes but never bears, until recently.

While she and her husband plan to monitor the animal’s whereabouts with the rest of the community, Wilkinson Behrens doesn’t plan to involve her twin toddlers, who are only 2 years old.

“Bears and toddlers are both unpredictable,” she said. “So I want to avoid any bears eating my children or children accosting the bear.”

Postal worker Dwayne Martin, who has worked in the Brookland neighborhood for the last six years, said the bear won’t stop him from working, but admits he has concerns. His employer, the U.S. Postal Service, warned him about the potential of a bear sighting, and he plans to follow a simple rule if the animal appears: “jump in my truck, call the authorities and hopefully, they found him.”

“Bears are dangerous,” Martin said. “When they start coming to these neighborhoods, rummaging through trash and stuff, they get bold. You’ve got dogs out here. They will kill a dog, a small dog or anything.”

Suzanne Young has lived in the District for over 40 years. She said city leaders should be more active in locating the bear — and any possible family members — for the safety of children and some adults in the neighborhood.

“Wouldn’t somebody be curious just to see if there’s like a family up there,” she said, pointing at Fort Bunker Hill.

Ward 5 Council member Zachary Parker said on his X account that the Humane Rescue Alliance is working to locate the bear — nicknamed Otis — and D.C. police are on standby.

HRA is asking anyone with any information to contact the alliance at (202) 723-5730.

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José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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