Yes, that’s right…Black bears! It is pretty amazing the changes the state has gone through in the past 200 years. Way back when (early 1800s) Ohio used to be covered with forest and prairie. As it was settled prairies fell to the plow and forests to the ax. Like many animals, black bear were extirpated from the state.
As we grew as a nation and got a bit smarter about the environment more effort was put into restoring the forests that once blanketed Ohio. Throughout this time occasional sightings of black bear were reported.
Fast forward to the last ten years and sightings and distribution have increased. In fact, it is estimated that there are 100 black bears living in the Buckeye State. Most black bears are found in the forested areas of Northeast Ohio’s Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage & Trumbull counties and Southeast Ohio’s Athens, Belmont, Hocking, Vinton & Washington counties.
However, that isn’t to say the occasional bachelor bear won’t come strolling along. (Bachelor bears are the equivalent of a 16 year old boy with a brand new driver’s license and keys to a red convertible.) Usually, bachelor bears go about their business until they find a new home range but a few cause problems by getting into bird feeders or trashcans.
If you see a bear while on a hike, don’t completely freak out. Keep your distance and do not approach the bear. Give the bear plenty of space to get away from you. Fight the urge to flee and raise your hands up over your head so you appear larger. Black bears will typically run from humans. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Services has more information: http://fw.ky.gov/blackbearencounter.asp.