Black bears sighted in Ashtabula County

A black bear recently destroyed several bee hives in Plymouth Township.

A black bear that officials believe destroyed several beehives and bird feeders in Ashtabula County was one of a number of sightings in the past two weeks.

A bear was spotted in Conneaut, Ashtabula and Jefferson and Plymouth, said Geoff Westerfield, wildlife management assistant supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife in northeast Ohio.

"Ashtabula County has been hopping with bears this year," he said. "It's been pretty busy."

Sue Mizer, of Roaming Shores, said her husband, Tim, found a huge pile of coal black scat in their next door neighbor's yard over Memorial Day weekend. 

"Then when Tim went down to our dock, he found several muddy footprints that were as big as his feet," she said. "They were shaped like big round paws. ... He sent pictures to several of his outdoorsman friends."

Plymouth Township resident Kristi Wludyga-Blood said her neighbor recently spotted one on Pinney Topper Road.

Dorset native Robin Williams said her aunt had one on her deck.

"It picked a fight with one of her bird feeders," she said. 

About 70 different black bears are reported annually in the Buckeye State, according statistics from the ODNR. While the population of Ohio’s largest mammal might not increase in 2017, sightings of black bears are always expected to rise in the summer months.

“The most common problem we have with bears in northeast Ohio is damage to bird feeders,” Westerfield said. "Take the bird feeders down. It is important to remove all bird feeders and stop feeding birds between Memorial Day and Labor Day."

Removing uneaten pet food, keeping trash inside until pick-up day, and cleaning up after grilling out also are important steps to help deter bears from frequenting an area and becoming a nuisance, he said.

"Taking such steps helps prevent bears from associating food with presence of people and allows the bear to move on, all helping to avoid future conflicts," he said.

The bears tend to wander close to people when there are bird feeders, bee hives and garbage cans within reach, he said.

Bears are not a common sight in Ashtabula County, but bears searching for a mate this time of year is normal.

If a bear is sighted, leave it alone and report the sighting at wildohio.gov.

Confirmation of a sighting can come via a photo from a digital trail camera or by an inspection and verification from an ODNR wildlife official. Most reports come in between May and June, officials said.

Efforts to monitor black bears in Ohio are supported by the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund, which receives donations through the sale of Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamps, the state income tax checkoff program and the purchase of cardinal license plates.

The black bear is listed as an endangered species in Ohio and is protected by state law.

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