Alerts & Notices

Sharing the Forest with Black Bear

downloadable brochure on natural hazards on the Wayne National Forest

Ohio has Black Bears?

 Yes, black bears are back in Ohio! Over the last 25 years black bear sightings in Ohio have become more and more frequent as bears are moving in from surrounding forests in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Currently, the black bear is listed as an Ohio endangered species. More bears are making their way into our state. It is important to learn now how to live with bears to minimize negative encounters.

Some Basic Black Bear Facts

  • Black bears weigh an average of 175 pounds for females and 275 pounds for males.
  • Shoulder height for bears is between 2.5 and 3 feet. Standing height is about 5 feet.
  • Bears have an excellent sense of smell. They can smell possible food over one mile away.
  • Although they are classified as carnivores by nature they are actually omnivores, taking advantage of the food available. Vegetation makes up 80-85 percent of a bears diet and only about 15-20 percent is meat.
  • Bears can reach running speeds of up to 35 mph.
  • Not all black bears are black; some may be brown or even blonde in color. 

Living in Black Bear Country

Since bears are moving into Ohio it’s important to learn how you can alter your life style to make Ohio safer for bears and to minimize human and bear conflicts. If you are living in an area that has a black bear population it is important to make sure you are not attracting bears in to your neighborhood by taking a few simple precautions.

  • Store all items with a strong smell inside. This includes garbage cans and pet food.
  • Clean your barbeque grill often. Dispose of grease or food waste from the grill in a sealed bag in the garbage.
  • Pick ripe fruits or vegetables immediately. Also remove unharvested food from the garden.
  • Never feed a black bear. Bears become conditioned to sites where human food is available and may continue returning to that site even after the food source is removed. If this happens the bear is considered a “nuisance” and may be destroyed.

Hiking Tips

When you are hiking keep in mind these tips.

  • Hike in a group.
  • Make some noise as you hike. Talk, sing or clap your hands so you don’t startle a bear. Some people wear bells to alert bears they are in the area.
  • Use caution on windy days and in areas where a bear may not see or hear you coming. It is important to warn a bear of your presence.
  • Keep children close. Children should stay with the group and always on the path.
  • Pets should always be on a leash.

If you do see a bear contact Ohio Department of Natural Resources- Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE. Harming or disturbing a bear is punishable by fine of $1,000 plus 120 days jail time because it is an endangered species.

Bear Encounters

Currently black bear encounters in Ohio are rare. If you do encounter a bear while in the forest you should feel privileged, not afraid. However it is important to know how to react if you DO see a bear.
Learn to care, be A.W.A.R.E.
ct calm. Do not run. Bears, like dogs have a natural chase instinct.
Warn the bear you are there. Talk in a firm, but calm voice to let the bear know you are there and that you are human.
Allow space between you and the bear. If you are on a path step aside, hopefully the bear will keep on its way. Back away slowly.
Raise your hands above your head to appear larger. If the bear is still following you clap your hands, shout at the bear, or throw something like a stick towards it to scare it off.
Exit the area. Detour your path around the area of black bear activity.
In the rare case you are being attacked by a black bear FIGHT BACK. Use any means possible to fend off the bear.

Camping Near Bears

Special precautions should also be taken while camping in areas of black bear activity.

  • Keep all “smellables” in sealed containers. This includes food, garbage, toiletries, and any clothing you have cooked in. Hang these items in a tree at least 12 feet high and 10 feet from the trunk of the tree.
  • Vehicles are NOT bear-proof. Keep food out of your car. A persistent bear will enter your car and cause damage to it.
  • Sleep away from food storage or cooking areas. Pitch your tent up-wind of food. Do not sleep in clothes worn while cooking or eating.
  • Dispose of waste in proper containers. This includes trash and wastewater. Dish water dumped in the fire ring can attract bears.

For More information Contact:

Proper storage for food, toiletries, clothing, and trash when camping in bear populated areas.