AKRON – The first clear photographic evidence of a black bear sow with cubs in Ohio has been recorded in Ashtabula County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The historic footage of a mother black bear (called a sow) safely crossing a roadway with at least two cubs was captured by Colleen Porfillio and her daughter Jenna as they were driving.
“This is the confirmation we needed to help ensure our suspicions were on-point,” said Scott Peters, wildlife management supervisor for northeast Ohio. “Black bear sightings in northeast Ohio counties are not all that uncommon anymore, especially sightings of young males looking to establish territories during warmer months.” Wildlife biologists have logged some reported sightings of females with cubs previously, but support data such as high-quality pictures or video of a sow with cubs clearly in Ohio has been lacking until now. “Whether or not the sow gave birth to the cubs here in Ohio we’ll never know since the sighting was only a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to know they’re spending time in the Buckeye State,” added Peters. The cubs will stay with the sow just over one year and then they will disperse to find their own territories.
Individuals who spot a black bear in Ohio are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org to report the sighting. As much detail as possible including location, date, time, and bear activity (i.e. crossing a road) is helpful to biologists. This data helps wildlife officials better understand this species as well as the population dynamics in Ohio. Reports of recent/current activity are most helpful, therefore sightings more than a few days old are not necessary to report.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife began formally keeping records of black bear observations in 1993. Since that time, bears have been confirmed in over half of Ohio’s 88 counties. Most observations occur in northeast and southern Ohio. Ashtabula County is a leading county for reported bear activity. Confirmed sightings include such details as photographs, tracks, scat, and reports directly from wildlife officials.
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 and Wildlife Legacy Stamps. Individuals interested in donating to the fund can also donate online at wildohio.gov
Black bears return to Ohio
Historically, black bears roamed the Buckeye State, but unregulated hunting and habitat loss rendered bears extirpated from Ohio by 1850. Today, Ohio is again home to a small but growing population of black bears. Ohio’s resident bear population is estimated to be anywhere from 50-100 individual bears.
A black bear presents no danger to humans when it is given the proper space. Black bears are usually fearful of people, therefore bear attacks are a rare occurrence. Bears do not attack or kill children or pets as long as the bear is given its space and is not cornered. The first thing to do when you see a bear is to remain calm. Generally, black bears are non-aggressive and prefer to flee from the area as soon as they are aware human presence. If you encounter a bear and it is not aware of your presence, simply back away from the area slowly. If the bear is aware of your presence and it does not leave the area, avoid direct eye contact with the animal, give the bear an easy escape route, and simply back slowly away from the area. Always avoid running or climbing trees, which may provoke a chase. An easy way to remember this is to be AWARE:
Act calm and do not run.
Warn the bear that you are near; talk in a firm, calm voice.
Allow space between you and the bear. Step aside and back slowly away. Do not make the bear feel trapped or threatened.
Raise your hands above your head to appear larger if the bear approaches. Clap your hands or shout to scare the bear away.
Exit the area.
The black bear is listed as endangered in Ohio and protected by state law. For more information about Ohio’s wildlife species visit wildohio.com