Wild Animals in Ohio? Shaker Can’t Bear It

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How many squirrels has your dad chased from your bird feeder? And in lots of neighborhoods, watching out for a deer darting across the street is an everyday thing. Sometimes it’s hard to keep those bears in your trash can under control. 

Wait. Bears? That’s right. Bears in the ’burbs of greater Cleveland. Some people have moved to the suburbs looking for greater security, but when a 300-pound black bear rings your doorbell, any sense of being safe and secure goes out the window. That’s just what happened in Ravenna back in July. Dan Lintz told Fox 8 News that when he got home from church, he heard the doorbell ring. 

“I heard it ring a couple of times,” laughed Lintz. 

The Ravenna homeowner said the bear then started eating his flowers. “I told him, ‘Stop eating them,’ and then he went over to the fountain and took a drink, like he was washing them down.”

How creepy! But that bear eventually moved on. 

Recently a bear has been making the rounds in Bedford Heights, Solon and Warrensville Heights, too.  Hmm . . . if you put a track on him, it might reveal that he’s heading to Shaker.

The most common wildlife living in the Cleveland metro area are raccoons, squirrels, opossums, snakes, rats, bats and deer. There are typically no bears, but it’s reasonable for a bear to find a habitat in this area. There are plenty of trees to climb, things to eat and smells to explore. Bear sightings in the Buckeye state have jumped from about 30 in 1998 to 152 in 2011, though researchers are not certain how many of the bears are permanent residents. State wildlife research biologist Suzy Prange told the Plain Dealer,

“They’re just like teenage boys…they’re out there on their own for the first time and they’re looking for a girlfriend. They get into trouble.”

Due to thriving black bear populations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it’s likely that some of these bears are slowly but surely moving toward Ohio in order to explore new habitats and territories. The Division of Wildlife estimates 50 to 100 black bears live in Ohio. But most of the sightings are concentrated in the eastern half of the state. However, according to Carl Casavecchia, manager of the Metroparks’ Garfield Park Nature Center, Clevelanders don’t have to worry about black bear encounters any time soon; the bear population is slowly growing — just bear-ly!

“You never know. Fifty years from now maybe we’ll be talking about the bear problem in the Cleveland Metroparks,” he said.

Some might jump to the conclusion that it’s time to start hunting the bears, just as communities have hunted their abundant deer populations. But we should embrace the bears coming back to their former habitat and in time, bring back the coyotes, too!  The return of these animals is a beautiful thing and is a positive sign for our natural environment here in Cleveland.  Bears are amazing creatures and we should give them the respect they deserve. So until the bear numbers get out of hand, let the bears live in harmony with the rest of us. 

 A version of this article appeared in print on 5 October 2012, on page 4 of The Shakerite.

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