With the growing bear population, more bears can be expected in the area, experts say.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Township officials and officers from the division of wildlife had a bear of a time playing hide and seek with a 110-pound, fur-covered visitor over the weekend, and some experts say more wild visits can be expected in the future.
Bill Beagle, public information specialist, Ohio Division of Wildlife, said officers armed with tranquilizer guns were dispatched just after 4 p.m. Sunday to the 8000 block of Market Street after residents saw a young male black bear wandering through the area.
After several minutes of cat and mouse play with officers, the animal was tranquilized and moved to an undisclosed location in northeast Ohio. Beagle said officials do not tell the exact location of where an animal has been relocated because thrill seekers may make the animal's adjustment more difficult.
"We do believe that some of these animals are living in Ohio year-round now," said Beagle. "With any species you have to look at habitat. They are going to go where the food and cover is."
Division of wildlife officials say that as the population of black bears in Ohio and surrounding states continues to climb, the number of human encounters with the animals can also be expected to climb -- especially in areas bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Population figures: Pennsylvania, said Beagle, has a black bear population of about 10,000; West Virginia has between 6,000 and 8,000. A conservative figure for northeast Ohio would be about 50, he said.
According to Beagle, tranquilizers were used as a matter of procedure, but the bear that made his way through here "was so docile that anybody probably could have come up and fed him a donut by hand." Such familiarity with the animals, however, is not recommended.
With the potential increase in bear/human encounters, it is important for residents to understand there is no need for fear as long as they respect a few general rules, Beagle said:
UMost important, do not feed the animals.
UDo not to try to catch or corner any bear.
Beagle said most bears prefer to live in areas less populated by humans where they can roam freely, but, like raccoons, can become used to humans very quickly and learn to live off the scraps and garbage left behind in trash cans and pet feeders.
Ornery youngsters: Young male bears, such as the township's weekend visitor, can travel large distances and can show up anywhere in eastern and southern Ohio, committing acts that an experienced adult bear would not do, such as raiding trash cans and taking handouts from well-meaning residents.
Beagle said this becomes especially important this time of year when mother bears have given birth to new cubs and are forcing the older to cubs out of the den to fend for themselves.