Black bear on the loose in Colonial Heights

By Laura Geller - bio | email

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) – A bear is on the loose in Colonial Heights. There have been two sightings in two days. Now, residents are on high alert. A citizen called in a sighting Sunday night; a police officer encountered the black bear Monday morning.

He was patrolling the Dunlop Village Shopping Center off East Ellerslie Avenue when he saw the animal and called for backup. Police describe the small black bear as weighing between 125 and 150 pounds. Officers chased it through the shopping center and into an apartment complex but lost contact when it escaped into nearby woods.

The strip mall isn't exactly the wilderness, but around 7 o'clock Monday morning a small black bear decided to make the area its stomping grounds. That news is prompting strong reactions from residents in the apartment complex where the animal wandered.

"Oh my gosh," said Lee Wright. "Oh my gosh. That's, I mean, shocking!"

A police officer spotted the curious creature checking out his reflection in the window of a vacant store. He was able to get the bear's attention and get him to move out of what is often a busy strip mall.

"The bear traveled through the shopping center, just followed the sidewalk on down towards the back," said Colonial Heights Lt. Tom Kifer.

"Where you were saying where the bear was, is exactly where I walk my dog, so I'm a little concerned," said Lee Wright, who lives near the wooded area.

Bearchase Court is just a short distance from the spot of Monday's sighting. It was named after Game and Inland Fisheries captured a bear many years ago. They had chased it from the Appomattox River on the Petersburg line all the way through the city.

While bear sightings are not common, police want residents to be prepared.

"I think I'd just stand still and I wouldn't run," said Wright.

That's advice police are hoping residents will follow if the bear makes another appearance.

"The old adage of run and climb a tree, especially doesn't work with a black bear because black bears climb trees real well," said Lt. Kifer. "And if you start to run from the bear, it's almost a challenge and it will cause the bear to run after you."

Police said the circumstances surrounding the sighting were ideal. It was early morning on a holiday; so many people were not yet out and about. There were a few tense moments though when officers feared the bear could end up inside the center's Food Lion, as it wandered past automatic doors.

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