JEFFERSON, OH (WOIO) - A Cleveland 19 viewer sent in a series of surveillance pictures from Saturday night that appear to show a big black bear -- which is considered endangered in Ohio -- wandering around a backyard in Jefferson, which is in Ashtabula County.
Cleveland 19 is working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to confirm it is a black bear in the pics.
ODNR reports, "Ohio's bear population is estimated to be anywhere from 50 to 100 individual bears."
This time of year most of the bears on the move are young males.
"Dispersing young black bears will often travel great distances in search of a new habitat and are most likely to be seen by or interact with humans," the ODNR report on black bears states. "These bears are extremely agile and are able to run up to 35 mph, climb trees with ease and swim long distances."
The fact that a black bear was spotted in Jefferson means it's not unlikely it could continue its travel westward and come upon even more populated areas.
From Jefferson here are the following approximate distances a bear would have to travel to get into some larger communities:
- Ashtabula: 10 miles
- Painesville: 24 miles
- Mentor: 30 miles
- Cleveland Heights: 44 miles
- Downtown Cleveland: 48 miles
No one is suggesting a black bear would ever make it to downtown Cleveland, but it shows that while Jefferson is pretty rural it's not that far from some major populations.
ODNR has suggestions on how to bear-proof your backyard:
- Bird feeders and other wildlife feed-remove feeders, including hummingbird and suet feeders.
- Trash receptacles-store your garbage either in a garage or a secure container.
- Pet foods-keep pet foods inside, especially at night.
- Grease from grills-clean out grease traps after each use; store grill in garage or shed.
- Secure beehives-place electric fencing around beehives.
- Crops-pick fruit from berry bushes as soon as possible; scare bears out of agriculture fields as soon as damage occurs.