Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Black bears are finding a honey of a spot in Northeast Ohio.
And in so doing they've also become a bit of a nuisance, at least in some cases.
Last year, the state recorded 119 black bear sightings in 32 of Ohio's 88 counties, an increase from the 105 sightings noted in 2008. And the bulk of these sightings — 71 percent — came from Northeast Ohio. Counties in this district reporting black bears included:
* Lake, 3 (with 2 confirmed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife).
* Geauga, 7 (with 3 confirmed).
* Cuyahoga, 2 (with 1 confirmed).
* Ashtabula, 27 (with 8 confirmed).
* n Trumbull, 9 (with 4 confirmed).
Of the 45 reported nuisance reports of black bears, 24 were confirmed. Among them were:
* Geauga, 2.
* Ashtabula, 7.
* Cuyahoga and Trumbull, 1 each
Nuisance bear situations ranged from the raiding of bird feeders or garbage cans to damaging beehives, damaging homes, decks and the like, attempts to enter or being too close to dwellings and damaging blueberry bushes.
The Wildlife Division also noted that two black bears were struck and killed by motor vehicles in the state last year.
Most of the bears, the Wildlife Division said, were juvenile males, dispersed after being shooed away by their mothers when they reached an age where they can fend for themselves.
"From the data it does seem that sightings have leveled off a bit and I don't know what to make of that, either. We do have a good system of recording information and reporting sightings," said Dan Kramer, wildlife management supervisor for the Wildlife Division's Northeast Ohio office in Akron.
Kramer said Northeast Ohio remains an entry venue for many of the bears being seen in the state.
"For one thing you have the Ohio River that largely — though not completely — serves as a barrier to bear migration from West Virginia, Kentucky and even parts of Pennsylvania.
But the bears that come into Ashtabula and Trumbull counties are no doubt coming from northwest Pennsylvania," Kramer said.
Also, it is believed that a very small breeding population of bears exist in the state, including in Northeast Ohio. Last year about 10 sightings of either a sow with cubs or just a cub were reported, though none were confirmed, Kramer said.
Bobcats also are increasingly being detected in the state, but they do not cause the same problems as bears.
In 2009, the state recorded 266 unverified bobcat sightings in Ohio, up from the 220 unverified sightings in 2008. Verified sightings included 92 last year and 65 in 2008.
Of the verified sightings, 25 came from Noble County in southeast Ohio and 70 were reported within a 1-county radius of Noble County. No verified bobcat sightings came from Northeast Ohio last year, though they have occurred in other years.
Locally, there were four unverified bobcat sightings in Ashtabula County, two in Trumbull County and six in Cuyahoga County, though none in Lake or Geauga counties.
"I am surprised about Cuyahoga County. Even with so many unverified sightings its still gives you pause to wonder," said Suzie Prange, the Wildlife Division's forest wildlife biologist.
A growing number of verified sightings are being recorded by so-called "trail cameras," which are used by archery hunters to detect deer movement when a stand is not occupied, Kramer said also.
"Trail cameras are a great tool for us to record bobcat sightings. That's also why we're adjusting our efforts to include more trail camera work over baits," Kramer said.
Prange said she's also seen some "great trail camera photos" of bobcats.
"Bobcats certainly are not camera shy," she said.
Kramer said the Wildlife Division anticipates an expanding bobcat population in Ohio as the species finds much to like here.
"I think bobcats have a greater ability and are more likely to expand in the state than black bears. They can go undetected better than can bears, too," Kramer said.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org