The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 24, 2013

Black bear takes a stroll on Ashtabula street

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — “Once upon a time, there were three bears ...”

... And now there appears to be fourth in the city — for real.

A resident from the 4800 block of Benefit Avenue neighborhood spotted a bear in her yard Tuesday and alerted police. According to police reports, the bear roamed around the resident’s yard before returning to the woods.

The caller said it was “a big bear,” according to dispatcher reports.

Jeff Richmond at Richmond Auto Body, 5005 Benefit Ave., said several police officers quickly arrived on the scene. They tried to get the bear to go back into the nearby woods, he said.

“The last I knew, there was a bear sighted on Lyndon Avenue (in the Ashtabula harbor),” Richmond said.

He didn’t know if it was the same bear.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife offers several tips for dealing with bears, reminding people to leave the bears alone. So far, there have been no signs of aggression from the bears, reports show.

“Ashtabula County is the leading county in the state for bear sightings,” said Scott Peters, ODNR’s wildlife managing supervisor. “This is typical of this time of year.”

Peters said it’s the bears’ breeding season and the animals are trying to find their own territory.

Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said ODNR gave his officers “banging devices” to spook the bears away from populated areas.

“They sound like a loud firecracker,” he said. “It’s designed to frighten the bear.”

Residents reported the Benefit Avenue bear weighs about 300 pounds, but Peters said most likely the bear weighs about 150 pounds.

“I’ve seen dozens and dozens of bears,” he said. “They are one of the hardest species to judge.”

Residents should be aware that Ohio’s black bear population continues to increase, and the Benefit Avenue bear isn’t the only one roaming Ashtabula County. Bears also have been spotted this week in Pierpont and Kingsville townships, as well as the Jefferson-Eagleville area, according to local residents and ODNR reports.

The ODNR received 224 sightings reported from an estimated 93 bears last year in the state. That’s up from 152 sightings in 2011.

Black bears are not known to attack or kill people or pets as long as they are given space and not cornered, the department said. Wildlife officials urge people to keep their distance from any bear and do not feed them. Put away garbage and bird feeders that attract bears.