The first clear photographic evidence of a black bear sow with cubs in Ohio has been recorded in Ashtabula County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The historic footage of a mother black bear (called a sow) safely crossing a roadway with at least two cubs was captured by Colleen Porfillio and her daughter Jenna as they were driving.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife began formally keeping records of black bear observations in 1993. Since that time, bears have been confirmed in over half of Ohio’s 88 counties. Most observations occur in northeast and southern Ohio. Ashtabula County is a leading county for reported bear activity. Confirmed sightings include such details as photographs, tracks, scat, and reports directly from wildlife officials.
Efforts to monitor the black bear have been supported by the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species fund, which receives donations from Ohioans through the state income tax check-off program and by the purchase of cardinal license plates and Wildlife Legacy Stamps. Individuals interested in donating to the fund can also donate online at wildohio.gov
Historically, black bears roamed the Buckeye State, but unregulated hunting and habitat loss rendered bears extirpated from Ohio by 1850. Today, Ohio is again home to a small but growing population of black bears. Ohio’s resident bear population is estimated to be anywhere from 50-100 individual bears.
A black bear presents no danger to humans when it is given the proper space. Black bears are usually fearful of people, therefore bear attacks are a rare occurrence. Bears do not attack or kill children or pets as long as the bear is given its space and is not cornered. The first thing to do when you see a bear is to remain calm.
Generally, black bears are non-aggressive and prefer to flee from the area as soon as they are aware human presence. If you encounter a bear and it is not aware of your presence, simply back away from the area slowly. If the bear is aware of your presence and it does not leave the area, avoid direct eye contact with the animal, give the bear an easy escape route, and simply back slowly away from the area. Always avoid running or climbing trees, which may provoke a chase.
Also last week, a male bobcat was hit by a car near Bellville. Although the injuries were serious, they were not life threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery and eventually be returned to the wild. On top of that, a friend showed me video footage of a badger living on his property.
These rare and awesome wildlife events made me think of an article I wrote back in 2002 titled the Good Old Days. I thought I would share parts of it again: “…. Back in the good in the good old days.” How many times have you heard that phrase? If you are the youngest of much older seven children and older parents, you hear that phrase a lot. Seems a lot of things we enjoy use to be a lot better way back when.
Last week, I opened my mailbox and found the winter issue of Wild Ohio, a great publication put out by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, had arrived. I love getting this magazine because it always has some great articles and pictures about Ohio’s wildlife and what is going on with ODNR. This issue’s main article was the year in review of ODNR’s activities. While I was reading this great publication, it got me to thinking. In terms of Ohio’s fish and wildlife, we may be living in the good old days right now.
Sure, Ohio has lost a lot of habitat compared to what we use to have 200 years ago. We have certainly lost a majority of our wetlands. We are also witnessing a lot of growth in our county and throughout the state that appears to be gobbling up farmland and wildlife habitat. But, through a lot of hard work and effort by a lot of folks, things are a whole lot better for our wildlife than they use to be just a few short decades ago. With the leadership of ODNR, our sportsmen‘s dollars have gone a long way to ensuring our Ohio’s wildlife continues to strive.
Yes, it is the sportsmen that funds most of ODNR’s budget. Every fishing and hunting license purchase sends money back to ODNR. Every outdoor sports equipment purchase sends money back to wildlife thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and the Dingle-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. Did you know that every waterfowl hunter has to purchase an Ohio and federal wetlands stamp that goes strictly to the purchase of wetlands?
Along with some timely farm programs like Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program that had a side benefit of replenishing wildlife habitat, things are a whole lot better. Add to the mixture the efforts of groups like Ducks Unlimited, DELTA, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Pheasants Forever (just to name a few) who spends their money on purchasing more land for wildlife, things are looking a lot brighter.
Don’t believe me when I say we are witnessing the best of the good old days? Let’s look at some great success stories in our state’s wildlife. How about Canada geese? It wasn’t too long ago when we used to actually talk about a sighting of these birds migrating through the state, as it was such a rare treat. Now they are a nuisance to golf courses and pond owners. These highly adaptable birds went from being introduced back into Ohio by ODNR in 1956 to our state’s most populated waterfowl. Along the same lines, thanks to a very wet year and some great available habitat, continental duck numbers reached an all time modern day high just two years ago.
How about wild turkeys? These birds were practically nonexistent in our county just a few short years ago. Through the work of ODNR, these birds have bounced back to revolutionary day numbers and will be hunted in all 88 counties this coming spring. What about our state’s most famous game animal, the whitetail deer? Did you know that at one time their numbers were so low that seeing one in the early 1900’s was considered a rare event? Now, Buckeye hunters successful harvest over 100,000 deer annually with all the different seasons and last year a hunter from Xenia harvested the third largest set of antlers of all time in the world.
Fishing continues to be the best it has been for a long time. I can remember when I was a kid stories of lake Erie being one of our most polluted waterways. Now it is arguably the best small mouth bass and walleye fisheries in the world. Local lakes around here offer some great angling as well. Many species are stocked and monitored in our lakes and streams by ODNR to ensure quality fishing opportunities throughout the state.
ODNR’s efforts help non-game species as well. River otters have been successfully introduced and were just removed from the state’s endangered species list last month. Bald Eagles are now back and doing well in Ohio since they’re near decimation of the 1970’s. Just last year alone 73 pairs of eagles nested successfully in Ohio with pairs close by in Delaware, Knox, and Marion counties. Nearly 260 eagles are wintering in Ohio right now. Ospreys, trumpeter swans, snowshoe hares and peregrine falcons are back as well, thanks to ODNR.
The success stories go on and on, but the battle isn’t over. Quail and pheasants are still struggling (but doing better) from the loss of habitat and the harsh blizzards of the late 1970’s. Wetlands are no longer protected and our farmland and habitat is disappearing quickly.
Thankfully, the sportsmen and women who use the resource also help pay for the resource. Hunters and fishermen, feel good that every time you buy a license or purchase a permit, the money you are spending goes back to help those resources that you love. If you are not a hunter a fisherman but enjoy nature and wildlife, you can help out too. You can purchase waterfowl stamps that buy wetlands.
Yes, some things may have been better in the good old days like homemade ice cream and grandma’s apple pie, but Ohio wildlife is living the good old days right now.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.