Black Bears are Back!
Well before Ohio became a state, most of the land was covered by forest. This forest was perfect habitat for black bears. There were so many black bears living in Ohio then that Native Americans used them as a source of food and skins. The only other large animal that the Indians used more was the white-tailed deer.
But as the land was cleared of trees to make room for farms and cities, black bears slowly disappeared. By about the year 1850 there were no black bears left in Ohio because their habitat had been destroyed.
The good news today is that black bears are back in Ohio! There are about 100 black bears now living in the wild in our state. Some female bears, known as sows, have been seen with cubs, so wildlife biologists know that bears are reproducing and the population is growing. Bears have returned because some forests, their habitat, have grown back.
Black bears are not always black in color. Sometimes their fur may be blond, cinnamon (tan), brown, or a combination of these colors, plus black.
Bears are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. During late summer and fall they may eat constantly — up to 20 hours a day! They do this to put on fat to help them survive their winter hibernation, which may last several months.
All that eating can make a bear very big. Male bears, known as boars, weigh about 300 pounds and females weigh about 150 pounds. A black bear in our neighboring state of Pennsylvania once weighed more than 700 pounds! When standing on their hind legs, black bears are between four and six feet tall.
What should you do if you are lucky enough to see a bear in the wild? First of all, don’t approach it; let it alone and allow it to leave. Bears are usually afraid of people. Black bears are protected by Ohio wildlife laws and injuring or killing one is illegal.