Bear Filmed Tearing Down Christmas Decorations May Be Behind Mysterious Spate of Similar Attacks

A bear has been caught on camera destroying Christmas decorations in a neighborhood in Fairfax County, Virginia, prompting suspicion the animal was behind a string of similar incidents in the area.

On the morning of December 3, Melissa Ashby woke up to the sight of her inflatable and illuminated Santa-in-a-helicopter lawn decoration, complete with rotating propellers, lying in tatters in her front yard.

It was the latest in a series of incidents in the area, which had seen several of Ashby's neighbors' Christmas decorations sustain damage from a mystery vandal, initially thought to be rowdy teenagers.

However, footage captured by Ashby's home security camera showed a bear attacking her festive display, first from the rear and then head-on.

It isn't completely clear what species of bear it was, but according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), black bear sightings have been reported in the Fairfax County area.

Black bears are omnivorous and can grow up to 7 feet long and 500 pounds, but they're often significantly smaller. They're also naturally shy, but can be drawn to residential areas by the smell of food.

The VDWR says that bird feeders, garbage and pet food are the items that would most typically attract the attention of a black bear, but fruit trees, beehives, grills and even compost heaps can also lure them in, especially if their natural food supplies, such as nuts and berries, are in low supply.

"In reality, most problems caused by bears are really 'people problems.' It is up to humans to change their own behaviors to avoid conflicts," the VDWR says.

It's possible that this particular individual, which has been dubbed "Bear Humbug" by some social media users, was on the lookout for food, and that Ashby's Christmas decorations simply aroused its curiosity.

"Most common bear problems have simple solutions. Typical problems involve turned-over garbage containers, trash littered across the yard, damaged bird feeders, or bears coming onto porches to eat pet food or get into coolers or freezers," says VDWR.

"However, bears that learn to associate food with people can cause property damage in their search for food around houses."

Bears typically move on from a residential area after several failed attempts to find food, but it's recommended that locals do their part by bringing in bird feeders and other food, and securing their trash.

"I woke up this morning to go to the gym, and saw our Santa helicopter actually on its side," Ashby told Fox5. "Honestly, when he turned around and actually went after the front [of the Christmas display], and went after it twice, it was actually kind of scary.

"He's fast, and whether it was 'Hey, I'm not quite sure what you're doing but I'm going to bite you'... it was kind of scary. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to fix [the decoration] but we'll get him up and running again."

black bear family crossing road
A stock image shows bears crossing a road. Bear sightings aren't common in Fairfax County, but black bears can be drawn to residential areas by the smell of food. iStock