June 26, 2002 at 4:57 PM EST - Updated July 3 at 4:15 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A black bear spotted by several people is making its way across the state, starting in southeast Ohio and seen Tuesday in the middle of the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said.
But officials say not to worry; he's shy.
"The bear, for the most part, is wanting to avoid people," said Jim Lehman, ODNR district manager for Central Ohio.
The 1-year-old male was on the edge of Franklin and Madison counties Tuesday night, Lehman said.
The department has been tracking the bear's movement through phone calls from people who have spotted it, he said.
Lehman is unsure exactly how many people have seen the bear, which has stayed away from houses and has only rummaged through one person's trash can, he said.
Lehman hopes people won't feed or go near the bear so it will continue to keep its distance, he said.
The bear is an unusual sight for many Ohioans, Lehman said. Only about 50 black bears, the only bears in Ohio, live in the state.
There's no indication where he came from, though Lehman said he could have been born in Ohio, because the state has both male and female bears. But black bears also have been known to cross into the state from Pennsylvania, he said.
Lehman said it's not unusual for younger male bears to travel this time of year. At about a year old, the bears' family groups will run them off to force them to find their own territory.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)