Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black bear/bobcat sightings on rise in Ohio

Last year saw saw a significant increase in the number of black bear sightings in the state, including in Northeast Ohio.

The same applies to the even more secretive bobcat.

All told, 164 verified and unverified sightings involving an estimated 88 individual bears were reported to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Last year that figure 119 sightings and involving an estimated 72 individual animals.

Bears were reportedly seen last year in 36 of Ohio's 88 counties.

In Northeast Ohio, Ashtabula County and Trumbull County led the region with 12 confirmed and unconfirmed sightings each while Geauga County recorded 7 such instances. Lake County had 4 such sightings. No sightings were recorded in either Cuyahoga or Lorain counties.

The most reported sightings were in Athens and Portage counties, each with 13.

As for the prospects that at least some of these bears are home-grown animals, sows with cubs or just cub sightings were made 10 times, including one case in Ashtabula County where on two occasions a sow with two cubs was reported.

Geauga County was also twice the reported scene of a sow with either two or three cubs.

Typically, an official with the Wildlife Division attempts to verify a sighting reported to the agency, usually done by the wildlife officer assigned to the respective county.

As for bobcat sightings, the numbers here had risen as well, probably due in no small measure to the use of trail cameras placed by deer hunters.

Last year bobcats were reportedly seen in 301 unconfirmed cases and 106 confirmed cases. Both figures are up from their respective 2009 figures, the Wildlife Division says.

Since 2008, reports the Wildlife Division, trail camera video, photographs and digital images have proven the most frequent method of making a verifiable claim of a bobcat.

Since 1970, bobcats sightings have occurred in 83 of Ohio's 88 counties. Multiple sightings - verified and unverified - have come from all Northeast Ohio counties.

One raccoon huntsman reported that early last fall his dogs twice chased a bobcat in the Chardon Township-Kirtland Hills area.

Both bobcats and black bears are considered endangered species in Ohio and are protected accordingly.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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