sSome Trumbull County sportsmen think the killing of two black bears recently could have been avoided.
By MIKE BRAUN
VINDICATOR OUTDOORS EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- The killing of two black bears since the end of June by Ohio Division of Wildlife officers is drawing a strong reaction from sportsmen in Trumbull County.
Bob Hill is a Cortland Conservation League board member, Trumbull County Federation of Sportsmen member and a state-certified hunter education instructor. He said one of the main things wrong with the situation that led to the bears' deaths is that they were trapped and then released in the Grand River area in northern Trumbull County.
He questioned if the location where the bears were released was appropriate.
"It was not a good idea to relocate the bears to an area of Ohio not suitable for them," Hill said, citing the proximity to major urban and residential centers. "Sportsmen [in Trumbull County] are not in favor of killing bears arbitrarily," Hill said.
"We are sending the wrong message," he said. "Shooting a bear in the head is not the answer. Let the sportsmen have a say in the matter."
The Grand River area is good for wild turkeys and otters, Hill said, referring to reintroduction programs for these two animals handled by the division in recent years.
"But it is not a habitat for black bears. We will take a stand as sportsmen. We have a problem with killing bears. It's just the wrong approach," he said.
Policy change: Hill said he is putting together a petition to circulate at the Trumbull County Fair about the situation. "I guess what we are tying to do is to change the policy of the division on killing bears," he said, adding that he has also written Division of Wildlife Chief Michael J. Budzik.
"I told him I will make someone accountable for the deaths of the bears," Hill said.
Hill said he would invite Jeff Herrick, director of the division's District 3 office in Akron, to the next federation meeting. Herrick was unavailable for comment.
Denny Molloy, a former Division of Wildlife officer and a member and organizer of several Trumbull County sportsmen groups, said the Shenango Wildlife Area or less populated areas of Ohio farther south might have been a better bet for the relocations.
"Part of what I see as wrong is where they placed the bears," he said. "They had a slim chance of getting out and making it. There are better habitat areas."
Dan Kramer, wildlife management supervisor for the division's northeastern Ohio area, said the division has no set policy on where a bear is relocated.
The policy stipulates, he said, that if a bear gets into a situation where it cannot escape, or is an immediate threat to public safety, then it can be drugged and relocated. Kramer said the policy also stipulates that, unless otherwise directed by the division chief, the bear can be moved twice before being destroyed.
Both times in recent weeks, the bears were moved only once. "Both of these situations came about quickly as to the need to act the second time around," Kramer said.
He added that there was no time to act differently. "If the bears had set up a pattern over time, it would have been different," he said.
Of the bear that was shot, Kramer said it was the wildlife officer's call. The other bear was put to sleep with drugs, he explained.
He added that a discussion was held at the district office in Akron as to where to relocate the bears and that the Grand River area -- which includes the 7,000-acre Grand River Wildlife Area -- was deemed best. The Shenango Wildlife Area was mentioned but discarded as sending the wrong signal to a neighboring state, Kramer said.
"It would be like we were kicking the bear in the butt and sending it back to Pennsylvania," he said. That state already has a sizable bear population.
No help: Another reason for not taking the bears farther south to less populated areas, Kramer said, is that the division does not want to help black bears populate Ohio.
"We are not trying to deliberately increase or decrease the bear population," he said. "And we don't want to add to bears already in that area."
Helping the division make the relocation decision is the fact that "the Grand River valley area all along Trumbull and Ashtabula counties is pretty vast," Kramer said.
"We did not expect the bears to stay put," Kramer continued. "A bear will look for something familiar and he will move until he finds it. Animals are animals -- they will do what they want to do."