Proof of a black bear in Seneca County has been confirmed by Seneca County Wildlife Officer Matt Leibengood.
The actual bear - which is an endangered species in Ohio - has not been sighted, but "we have confirmed sign of a black bear," he said. "The sign that was confirmed was scat and related tracks in the snow."
Leibengood, who works in the county through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, said the sign was reported to him Jan. 8.
"They indicated they had found it the day before," he said.
The finders took photos of the tracks and scat found in Jackson Township near the intersection of TR 172 and TR 53, and then collected the scat for identification.
"They saw the tracks, and saw the strangest, and quite frankly the largest, scat they'd every seen," he said.
"The primary consideration here is black bears are an endangered species in Ohio," Leibengood said. "It's something new for me and I'm pretty excited to know that it's going on. It's the first time in my time in Seneca County that we've had any confirmed sign."
He has been wildlife officer since 2009. Although he hasn't found any records, he said it's probably been much longer since a bruin has been confirmed here.
Residents need not be concerned about the bear's presence, he said. The animal is likely a wild bear, and not a discarded bear that had been raised in captivity. There have been no reports of contact with people.
"It should exhibit the signs of a normal wild animal, and that would be fear of people," he said. "If it encounters people it's likely to turn and run the other way."
Black bears don't always hibernate in winter as some other bears do, he said.
"It is common for them to be active this time of year, especially adult males, because they don't do a true hibernation," Leibengood said. "They could be in a deep sleep for a while and then get up and do some walking around."
Because of increasing populations in other parts of Ohio, he said it's possible the bears are expanding into new area.
"It's exciting to know that these things are moving around," Leibengood said. "We have a population of them in the eastern and southern parts of the state. They're known to travel long distances after being kicked out of the den by their mothers. It's up to them to find a new place to live."
For more information on black bears, visit wild
ohio.com and look under "Wild Resources" and "Endangered and Threatened Species."
If anyone sees a black bear, they should report the sighting to Leibengood's message phone at (419) 429-8394.
"But there's no need to go on a bear hunt," he said. "Go about your business in a normal way."