On June 17, 2010, a young black bear caused havoc in Poland and Boardman as it made its way east. The bear was eventually captured and relocated, only to climb a power pole and die from electrocution.
A few weeks ago. a report came into Poland Township Police of a bear roaming around to the east of the township building. Police investigated, but didn't find the animal. A few hours later, according to Poland Township police Chief Brian Goodin, a Pennsylvania driver struck a bear on U.S. 224 in the township.
"We're seeing about one a year, usually around the same time," Goodin said. "When we get a call on a bear sighting we usually respond, but the common sense thing to do is leave it alone and let it go."
He said the township will check out reports to ensure there is no danger to residents.
The one that did make it through Poland in 2010 had made a stop in the village. Police Chief Russ Beatty said it stopped at one residence to snack at a bird feeder. He said it bent a metal pole to get at the seed and responding officers couldn't bend it back.
"They are incredibly strong," Beatty said.
So are these bears sightings really that rare? Ohio Department of Wildlife research technician Laura Graber said it may not be as rare as some think.
"From mid-May to early August there is typically a rise in bear sightings in Ohio," she said. "We do have bears that live in Ohio, but most are juveniles."
She said the bears that have been seen moving west from Pennsylvania are generally yearlings who are striking out on their own. They are males who just left their mothers and are searching for a territory of their own.
"They will travel up to 100 miles," Graber said.
Often the juvenile bears will come into or through the county around May or June and will return to Pennsylvania in late July. She said some stay and others return.
In Mahoning County, the bears generally have been tracked along the Interstate 76 and Interstate 80 corridors. They also move along waterways such as the Mahoning River and possibly Yellow Creek.
"Those are good routes for them," Graber said.
She said there are absolutely bears that travel through the county that no one will know about. They tend to be secretive and avoid people most of the time. There is one thing that will draw them in.
Like the Poland Village resident found out, bears love bird seed. They will destroy a feeder to get at the tiny morsels.
"If you know there is a bear in the area, take the bird feeders down, don't leave pet food out, and clean the grease trap in your grill," she said.
Bears are attracted to the smell of a grease trap and will be drawn to it.
She said, typically, reports and sightings have shown bears to move across all the Ohio counties bordering Pennsylvania. Mahoning County sightings, she said, are more frequent because of the higher population and more developed areas that make it harder for a bear to stay hidden.
She said one bear that was reported in Twinsburg in October of 2011 wasn't seen again until May of this year. The bear didn't leave the area, it just steered clear of humans all that time in between sightings.
On a final note, Graber said to watch dogs when there is a bear around. Some dogs will go after it and chase it up a tree. It will stay there until the dog is gone, but could feel cornered and threatened. In that case it could try to defend itself. It is better to leave it alone and let it move on.
Anyone who does spot a bear can report it to the Division of Wildlife at 330-644-2293. All reports will be taken and used to track bear activity in northeast Ohio.