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PHOTO COURTESY OF ODNR A black bear was sighted Thursday night roaming Lake and West avenues in Ashtabula.

ASHTABULA — A Madison resident spotted a black bear Thursday night roaming the city’s west side.

Haley Herrick was driving along Lake Avenue at 8 p.m. when she saw the bear running from the woods across from Ashtabula County Medical Center into the woods right next to Moy’s Special Occasion Restaurant, she said.

“I was driving towards Route 20,” she said. “I was quite surprised.”

Around the same time, city police received calls of a bear near the Roller Den on West Avenue, according to reports.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, black bears were even more common years ago in the Buckeye State.

“Unfortunately, unregulated hunting and habitat loss rendered bears extirpated from Ohio by 1850,” according to ODNR website. “Today, Ohio is again home to a small, but growing population of black bears.”

Ohio’s bear population is estimated to be anywhere from 50-100 individual bears. Since 1993, there have been 252 confirmed sightings, said Jamey Emmert, ODNR Department of Wildlife’s spokesperson.

“We always see an increase in May, with peak sightings in June and July,” she said. “Mom bears have booted their male offspring out, at the same time, the males start to think about mating.”

It is important to understand a little about the biology and habits of the black bear if we are to coexist comfortably with this Ohio resident, she said.

Most black bears range in size from 100 to 400 pounds, are 5 to 6 feet in length and average 3 feet high at the shoulder. The majority of bears in Ohio weigh between 125-250 pounds, and are juvenile male bears.

In the past few years, a black bear sow and her cubs have been spotted and caught on camera in Ashtabula County, near the Pennsylvania state line.

A Plymouth resident reported seeing a bear this weekm but did not get a photo or video of the trio.

Three years ago, a black bear showed up on the porch of a Conneaut resident, causing police to warn residents to take in bird feeders and trash cans and keep cooking grills free of grease.

“Especially in Ashtabula County, people are getting used to seeing bears, but it’s still important to report them,” Emmert said.

Young black bears will often travel great distances in search of new habitat and are most likely to be seen by or interact with humans.

These bears are extremely agile and are able to run up to 35 mph, climb trees with ease and swim long distances. Bears are omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide variety of foods.

Depending on the season, their diet may include grasses, berries, mast from oak, hickory, and beech trees, carrion, and insect larvae. Bears will also consume agricultural crops, if available.

Ashtabula County residents who spot a black bear are encouraged to contact ODNR at (330) 644-2293 or email wildinfo@dnr.state.oh.us to report the sighting.

Wildlife officials ask that people include as much detail as possible, such as location, date, time and bear activity. The data helps wildlife officials better understand this species, as well as the population dynamics in Ohio. Reports of recent or current activity are most helpful, therefore sightings more than a few days old are not necessary to report.

Ashtabula County is a leading county for reported bear activity. Confirmed sightings include photographs, tracks, scat and reports directly from wildlife officials, according to ODNR.

To report bear sightings, call ODNR at 1-800-WILDLIFE (800) 945-3543, or email wildinfo@dnr.ohio.gov.

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