SCIOTO—A handful of recent black bear sightings in the area have some residents wondering how to deter such unexpected guests from visiting their yards and property.
Though black bear sightings in Scioto County are relatively rare when compared with sightings across other parts of the state, they aren’t entirely unheard of. According to statistics from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), black bear sightings typically peak from late May to early July, corresponding with the animals’ mating season.
The bears are generally able to travel great distances from their dens. According to ODNR’s website, studies of the animal conducted in different states indicated that “the home range of adult males [can] be 100 to 120 square miles in upland hardwood habitats, 24 to 50 square miles for females.
In those studies, black bears’ movements of up to 125 miles from a denning site were documented.
While the habits of such a well-traveled species may be news to some, it’s a fact that Jen Wood knows all too well. Recently, she and her fiancé were surprised to see that a bear had made its way into their yard.
“I was just sitting on the couch watching my Marilyn Monroe documentary, my fiancé was sitting in the chair next to me taking a nap. Out of the corner of my eye, right in front of me, only a few feet in front of me by our deck, I saw something dark and I [realized] ‘oh my gosh, that’s a bear,’” Woods recalled.
Too startled to grab her phone, Wood’s fiancé filmed the encounter and the couple later shared it to Facebook where it currently has over 30 thousand views, according to Wood.
“[The bear] was kind of just moseying along, taking his time. He walked on by and walked up toward the woods.”
Wood, who lives near Pleasant Avenue in Portsmouth, says that while she and her fiancé were surprised to see the visiting bear, they weren’t threatened by his presence. She said that she still does a quick double-take to see if he’s returned anytime she leaves her home.
“I was shocked about it for days. You see them on TV, and you see people posting that they’ve seen them in the Smokies, but you don’t really see them that close up [in this area]. It was literally right by my deck,” said Wood.
Others in the Pleasant Avenue area posted photos to social media indicating that a bear crossed a road on its way back into the woods, according to Wood. For her, the encounter didn’t leave her feeling anxious about future bear visits.
“We’re not nervous at all. We just thought it was really cool to see. We just hope the little guy gets some food and that he’s safe and that nobody tries to hurt or harm him,” she said.
Wood reported the sighting to local wildlife officials so that they could be aware of the bear’s location.
Since the black bear is listed as an endangered species, harming them is illegal and can incur serious penalties. If one happens to encounter a bear in their yard, there isn’t an immediate need to fear the worst, according to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Like Wood’s backyard visitor, the bear is likely passing through or curious about an interesting sound or smell.
HSUS also notes that black bears have acute senses of smell and eyesight. Their sense of smell is “seven times greater than a bloodhound’s;” therefore, scents from a home’s outdoor garbage cans, compost, bird feeders and outdoor grills may cause a nearby bear to investigate more closely.
Black bears should never be approached, as their behavior can be unpredictable. In the event that a bear approaches in the wild, HSUS recommends that you “remain calm and remember that the bear is likely more scared of you than you are of him.”
Those approached by a black bear in the woods should make themselves appear as large as possible by spreading their arms wide, using the sleeves of a coat or jacket if possible. They should face the bear directly, not turning their backs to it. Making loud noises by yelling, clapping, or banging pots and pans can also help deter the black bear.
Black bear attacks on humans are very rare, however, and residents shouldn’t necessarily fear a quick backyard visit from a black bear passing through the area.
To prevent a black bear from lingering, residents should secure any outdoor garbage receptacles and be wary of items that could offer the passing bear a food source, such as outdoor bird feeders, beehives and compost piles. Keeping outdoor grills clean can help, as the smell may be tempting to a wandering bear.
For more information about black bears in our area, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources online at ohiodnr.gov. To report a black bear sighting, call 1-800-WILDLIFE or visit the Ohio Division of Wildlife online, also available through ODNR’s website.
If you experience a visiting bear who will not leave or who appears threatening, stay indoors and contact local law enforcement. In the rare event of a bear related emergency, call 911.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]
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