A total of 164 black bear sightings were reported in Ohio last year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. Of that number, state wildlife personnel confirmed 64 of those sightings, an increase compared to the 51 confirmed sightings in 2009.
I remember the first, and only, time I've ever seen a black bear. It was the early spring of 1993. I was working for The Daily Mining Gazette, a newspaper in the Keweenaw Peninsula way up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I had heard that black bears were being spotted near the local grocery store in town, so I went to take a look.
I casually drove into the grocery store parking lot and found about a dozen other vehicles parked way off to the side, nowhere near the front doors to the store. People were still in their vehicles, all facing the same direction — the store's Dumpsters.
Sure enough, right around dusk two very small black bears emerged from the nearby tree line. Very slowly, their gait almost laughably uncoordinated, the bears made their way down the short hill from the tree line to the Dumpsters. Eventually, they made their way to the destination, easily opened the lids and rummaged through the bins. Once in a while one would stick its head up to see what was going on, but that about it. After 20 minutes of this, I grew bored enough that I had seen enough.
So I left. And that was it. I wish the story was the stuff of legend, growing more exciting with each telling. But that's all there was to it.
Anyways, on to the rest of the Ohio DNR's report…
The confirmed sightings of 2010 occurred in 23 different counties and involved an estimated 31 different black bears, the Division of Wildlife reported.
Most of the reported bear sightings were in northeastern and south-central counties. Athens and Portage counties led the state reporting 13 sightings each.
Sightings occurred in every month of 2010 except January and December. The majority of bears were reported May through August, which is the peak of black bear breeding and dispersal of young male bears.
Twenty-nine of the 164 sightings involved damage or nuisance behavior, such as damage to bird feeders, beehives and garbage containers. An estimated 19 individual bears were involved in these cases.
Across the state there were eight reported sightings of sows with cubs and two sightings of lone cubs.
For comparison, in 2009 state wildlife officials confirmed 51 of a total 119 black bear sightings. The confirmed sightings were in 21 counties and involved about 31 different black bears. A record 165 bear sightings was reported in 2002.
The Division of Wildlife began formally keeping records of black bear observations in 1993. Since that time, bears have been reported in 58, and confirmed in 50 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The black bear is listed as endangered in Ohio and protected by state law.
Efforts to monitor the black bear have been supported by the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Fund, which receives donations from Ohioans through the state income tax check-off program and by the purchase of cardinal license plates. Individuals wanting to donate to the fund can also donate online at wildohio.com
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at ohiodnr.com.