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Black Bears Coming Back to Ohio

A black bear visited Bedford Heights and Solon last week, and these kinds of visits may become more common.

. More of his friends may be coming to visit in the coming years.

That's because, wildlife officials say, the black bear population in the region is on the rise.

Ohio's Division of Wildlife told the Plain Dealer that the number of bear sightings have increased five fold in the last decade or so, to more than 150 last year. Wildlife officials say there are as many as 100 black bears living in Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Black bears were once prevalent in Ohio, but deforestation and land clearing slashed their population. By 1850, there were no black bears in Ohio.

Because wildlife officials have seen female bears and cubs in Ohio, they know the population is growing.

If you see a bear in the wild (or your backyard), don't approach it. Wildlife officials say people should simply leave the animal alone and let it leave.

"Bears are usually afraid of people," according to a state wildlife website about bears, with an added reminder: "Black bears are protected by Ohio wildlife laws and injuring or killing one is illegal."

Chief Chris Viland echoed these sentiments, asking residents to . He added that police won't respond to a report of a bear sighting unless there is an imminent danger.

Still, you should report the sighting to police, which helps officials track the bears.

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