Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cougar hunting not regulated in Ohio

Cougar hunting not regulated in Ohio

Bear, lion - in Brown County?

Staff writer
May 31, 2009

Residents of southeastern Brown County have been getting a first hand look at some pretty wild animals recently.

Sunday morning Angie Long was on U.S. 62 about a quarter mile south of the stoplight in Russellville when she had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting a bear. She said it looked like it weighed between 150 and 200 pounds.

"I was in shock because it was in town," she said. "I saw a guy there working on his house and he had stopped to look at it so I rolled down my window and I said 'Was that a bear?"

The next morning, Memorial Day, the black bear or one of its relatives had moved north and was spotted on Hamer Road just off of Goose Run Road. Barbie Tungate spotted the bear running through her neighbor's back field.

"I thought it was somebody's rot (Rottweiler)," Tungate said. "I kept looking at it and then I knew it was definitely a bear."

She watched as the bear moved quickly through the exposed field and into a nearby wooded area. She later saw the tall grass in another neighbor's field moving as the bear came back before entering another wooded area. Tungate said the bear looked like it was about three feet tall on all fours and about four and a half to five feet long.

"I've heard about people seeing bears over the years but I'd never seen one until then," Tungate said. "I just don't want it to hurt my dog."

Later, around 3 p.m., the bear had moved north again where it was spotted on Kenny Lane near where New Hope White Oak Station Road intersects Stephan Road. Anthony Louders said he saw the bear in the driveway of a nearby house.

"It was the last thing I expected to see," Louder said. "At first I thought it was the biggest dog I've ever seen, then it kind of stood up on its back legs. It just kind of walked down through that yard like it belonged there."

Louder said he was about 250 to 300 feet away from the bear and he thought it was about five or six feet long. After it left he ran in the house to get his camera and stood out in the rain on a chair behind his privacy fence in the hope that the bear would return but it never did. Louder recently returned from Gatlinburg, Tenn., where he saw a mother black bear with two cubs. He said he never expected to see another bear so soon and so close to home.

Both Louder and Tungate said they spoke with neighbors who said they also saw the bear Tuesday morning, once near Tungate's house and once near the covered bridge over White Oak Creek off of New Hope White Oak Station Road.

There have also been reports of a mountain lion or cougar just north of Aberdeen.

Winter Dryden, who lives on Ebenezer Road off of state Route 763, saw the big cat as recently as May 16. Dryden said she had just returned from a church outing to the Cincinnati Zoo and was relaxing in her driveway when she saw something moving near the empty house across the street. As it slipped along the side of the house, Dryden said she thought it walked like a cat, then when it stopped about 200 feet from her when she saw the tail.

"I just froze for minute," Dryden said. "You never know how you'll react in a situation like that. Then I ran into the house screaming for Michael (her husband.)"

Other Ebenezer Road residents reported seeing the cougar in the same half mile area, and one resident took pictures of its tracks during the ice storm last winter.

Bill Reichling, of the Eastern Puma Research Network, said there area cougars living along the entire 981 mile long Ohio River Valley and have been for the last eight to 10,000 years. He said it is rare to see them because they are nocturnal and are fairly reclusive and secretive. Reichling said he has been studying the animals for 20 years, and while he has found countless scat piles and claw marks on trees, he has only seen three cougars.

"They're not a great danger," Reichling said. "They will eat anything that runs, but most stick to deer, turkeys, geese, and now that the beaver population has increased they'll eat an occasional beaver."

Reichling said the cougars do not attack domesticated animals or humans although 12 to 18 month old cougars may cause some problems. At that age they are turned away from their mother's care. These so-called transients or dispersals do not have an established territory and may not have perfected their hunting skills. They may therefore break from the norm and kill a domesticated animal, an easy meal.

Reichling said the best thing to do if a cougar is spotted is stand and face it, and pick up any children that are with you. Appear large by waving your arms or puffing out your jacket and back away slowly. If in the rare instance you are attacked, Reichling said you are more likely to be struck by lighting, do not break eye contact or turn your back. Throw objects at the cougar and shout loudly. He also said, if it bites hitting it and fighting back aggressively will discourage it and it should let go and run away.

Chris Gilkey, Adams County Wildlife Officer, said cougars and mountain lions are not regulated by the state of Ohio and can be killed by anyone with a hunting license. He also said they can be killed without a license if they pose a threat to human life or livestock.

Black bears, on the other hand, are protected by state law and anyone who injures or kills a bear can be punished.


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