AKRON — The life of a large black bear seen destroying bird feeders in search of a meal Sunday in Wadsworth came to an end early Tuesday morning on Interstate 77.
The male bear, which weighed about 400 pounds, was struck and killed by at least two vehicles in the northbound lane of I-77 near Vernon Odom Boulevard about 5:17 a.m. in Akron, according to police.
Wildlife officers had been tracking the bear the past several weeks after it was first spotted in Brecksville and in Hudson, a spokesperson for the local office of the Ohio Division of Wildlife said. The office informally referred to the animal as "the Brecksville bear" but otherwise did not name it.
There were no human injuries reported. Akron police as of Tuesday afternoon said they described the incident as a hit-skip.
One 911 caller said he was driving on I-77 and saw the bear.
"There’s a black bear in the freeway. ... It looked like it got hit but it was still moving," the male caller said. The dispatcher said police were on their way to the scene.
The bear, which may have been as old as four years, was not considered a problem animal, said Jamey Emmert, Division of Wildlife spokesperson.
"That bear was behaving itself," she said. The bear raided bird feeders and bee hives for food but otherwise stayed away from people, she said. "They’re passive by nature," she said.
Wadsworth resident and wildlife photographer Ron Schaefer, who took pictures of the bear Sunday as it ate from bird feeders in a neighbor’s back yard, said he and others were saddened by the animal’s death.
"It’s unique to have something like that here," Schaefer said. "Everybody around here thought it was pretty neat. We were lucky we got pictures of him. ... He wasn’t dangerous. He got his fill at that bird feeder and went on his way. ... Sad ending."
Based on an ear tag, the bear originated in Pennsylvania. That ear tag helped the Division of Wildlife track the animal, Emmert said.
"We got a lot of reports," she said. The ear tag was visible in many photos and videos people shot of the animal, she said.
The bear wandered into Medina and Wayne counties as well, Emmert said.
Wildlife officers had hoped that the bear was going to work its way safely back east. Adult male black bears typically look to find a place to stay where they are comfortable, usually far from people, Emmert said.
"They try to find their own territory," she said.
Because of the dense human population in the greater Akron area, "it’s uncomfortable for a bear to live here," she said. "It’s a tough place to be for a black bear."
This particular bear was the only one that the Division of Wildlife knows of in the greater Akron area, Emmert said.
But the Division of Wildlife is tracking other black bears in Northeast Ohio near the Youngstown area, she said. Wildlife officers keep track of the animals, based on sightings, using Google Earth and also pins placed on a large laminated wall map, she said.
Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ