YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there are between 50 to 100 black bears in the state.
The bears are a small but growing population in Ohio, but head across the border into Pennsylvania and that number increases to 20,000.
Black bear sightings are rare but happen often enough that everyone needs to be aware that it can happen, and there are things you definitely should not do.
Last week, a black bear was spotted in a parking lot at the Grove City Outlets in Mercer County, and just a few days ago, a bear was hanging around a honey beehive in Trumbull County.
So far this year, there have been reports of three sightings in Columbiana and one in Mahoning County. There have been 28 reports statewide.
Those numbers are low and one reason could be the wet weather we’ve had. ODNR Wildlife Technician Laurie Graber said right now, bears don’t have to look too far to find food.
“When it’s dry out, bears have a harder time finding food because food is not going to grow like it would on a wet year like this year. We’ve had a lot of rain so there are probably a lot of berries out there and an abundance of berries for the bears,” she said.
Bears begin to roam this time of year because it is mating season, and it’s also the time when cubs are heading out on their own. The animals may look cute and playful, but they can be dangerous.
The best thing to do is to discourage bears from coming to you. If a bear was spotted in your area, take down your bird feeders, bring pet food inside, clean out the grease trap in your barbecue grill, and make sure you don’t have any garbage outside.
“The best thing to do when you see a bear is to give it its space. You don’t want to corner it because bears typically don’t want anything to do with people. They want to get away from us as quickly as possible,” Graber said.
Graber says to always report a bear sighting to authorities. She says it doesn’t happen often, but if you find yourself threatened by a bear, make yourself look big, put your hands in the air, and yell at the bear.