Black Bears Continue To Have Presence In Ohio Despite Sighting Decrease

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UPDATED: Friday May 16, 2014 6:42 PM

When you think of Ohio's wildlife, you might think of deer, raccoons or coyote.

But black bears continue to have a presence in the state, according to new numbers released by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Wildlife officials report 158 sightings involving an estimated 74 individual black bears in 2013. That is a decrease from 2012 when there were 224 sightings involving an estimated 93 individual black bears.

"The ones we saw would probably go right at 100, 125 pounds,” said Ross County resident Marshall Wilburn.

While most black bear sightings were in eastern Ohio, Ross County led central Ohio counties with 12 reported sightings in 2013. Three of them were confirmed by wildlife officials.

Wilburn lives on the edge of Tar Hollow State Forest.

His theory is that the black bears migrated to Ross County from West Virginia.

"We spend a lot of time in the woods, and I see the sign all over that they are here,” Wilburn said.

Wildlife officials say the bears might look intimidating, but they are more scared of humans than we are of them.

"Their first instinct is to go the opposite direction. They don't want to be near a human,” said Karen Norris, a communications specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Black bears have made it close to Columbus in the recent past. The Division of Wildlife reports confirmed sightings in Franklin, Fairfield, Pickaway, Madison and Licking counties between 1993 and 2013.

The black bear on display at the ODNR Division of Wildlife office in Columbus is one that ventured into the Pataskala area in Licking County in 1997.

10TV was there as Officer Bill Bullard had to take it down.

"With this one, it's an urban bear. Maybe it loses its fear of people. Maybe it turns on somebody,” Bullard said.

But for the most part, wildlife officials say the bears are just young adults looking for food.

If you keep your trash and other food sources inside, experts say the bears will likely leave you alone.

It is advice Wilburn offers too.

"Never approach them. Never try to feed them,” Wilburn said. “Let them be bears and we stay human."

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