CLAY TOWNSHIP — Multiple sightings of black bears and their cubs in Gallia County over the past few days have residents on the lookout.
A bear was sighted at a residence near Parrish Drive and Kriner Road Tuesday morning with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office confirming the bear’s existence around 6:25 a.m.
“We had a report of a possible bear sighting and sent an officer out,” said Gallia Sheriff”s Office Chief Deputy Troy Johnson. “The deputy on scene did make contact and confirm it was a bear. He could only confirm one. It was some distance away from him. He didn’t observe it long. It was light and didn’t want to stick around. It had reportedly been eating dog food (near the residence).
Melinda Brumfield, of Crown City, is a witness to what she has identified as an adult black bear running through a field in another documented sighting.
“I had to take my grandson to daycare because my daughter is on vacation,” said Brumfield. “I was coming to work this morning and I looked at my phone and the time was twelve after eight when I stopped and took the picture. I noticed cars ahead of me and I saw them put on their brakes. I thought a deer had come across the road. Then when I got up there closer, I saw this big old black thing. I thought to myself ‘What in the world?’…It was big. It wasn’t little and when it was running, it’s skin, you could just see it really moving. Then she stopped and looked back (before disappearing into the brush).”
Brumfield said she spotted the bear on State Route 7 near Plymale Road while traveling north into Gallipolis. She had seen photos of a smaller bear she felt was potentially a cub spotted on Neighborhood Road on social media shortly after 7 a.m. the same day. She had read of another adult bear sighting on State Route 218, all close in proximity to the other reported sightings.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, male black bears about two years-old are expected to be sighted in the summer months.
“At two years old the moms will kick out the male cubs, who go searching for female bears” explained Lindsay Rist, communications officer with ODNR. “They can travel pretty far in search of a mate, and if they are unsuccessful they will likely return where they came from.” Approximately 70 sightings are reported annually in Ohio to ODNR, who track the endangered species.
Black bears in southeast Ohio are considered not bothersome, but transient. Black bears in Ohio are typically considered males moving through the area in search of female bears.
ODNR encourages those who see bears near their home to remove attractants from their yard; things like trash, birdfeeders, pet food and encourage cleaning a grill after use. If a bear is sighted, ODNR requests that you report it at their website: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/report-wildlife-sightings or by calling the wildlife management section at the District Four Office in Athens at 740-589-9930.
If a bear is encountered, according to the website, one should remain calm and that bears do not attack or kill children and pets if the bear is given space and not cornered. Individuals are encouraged to back away from bears slowly if it is not aware of one’s presence. If the bear is aware, avoid direct eye contact, give it a wide berth and back out of the area. Avoid running or climbing trees to provoke chase. If the bear approaches, individuals are encouraged to clap their hands or shout to scare the bear away. As a rule of thumb however, do not make the bear feel trapped or threatened.
Black bears at one point roamed much of Ohio but were considered rooted out by 1850. ODNR believes Ohio’s bear population to number between 50 and 100 animals. Most bears can be between 100 and 400 pounds and five to six feet in length as well as three feet high at the shoulder. They can climb trees and run up to 35 mph. Their diets include insects, agricultural crops, carrion, grass and berries. They are considered endangered in Ohio and illegal to hunt.
According to the website, ODNR’s Department of Wildlife will only relocate bears if they are determined to be in a situation where escape is unlikely, a threat to public safety or a sociological conflict is probable.
Dean Wright and Morgan McKinniss can respectively be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103 and 2108.