Mandy Peltier had just served breakfast to her children and walked into her office to enjoy her coffee. And then she heard her children casually talking about seeing a bear in the back yard.
Thinking they were joking, the Aurora mother walked back into the room, and saw a black bear in her back yard.
"I almost dropped my coffee," she said.
The bear, she said, was walking through the back of their yard, an area that is more wooded. The bear seemed to be walking toward her neighbor’s yard. When she called the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to report the sighting, she said, the person on the phone said another person on her street also reported seeing the bear.
Jamey Emmert, spokeswoman with the ODNR wildlife division headquarters in Coventry, said about three black bears are believed to be wandering through this area of Northeast Ohio right now. Because bears tend to travel a long distance over a short period of time, it is likely that the bear that has been spotted in the region is the same one.
Black bears are an endangered species in Ohio. They tend to be more active at dawn, dusk and at night.
In Mantua Township, a homeowner’s Ring doorbell camera showed the black bear wandering around a family’s property and a homeowner in Chagrin Falls also captured video of a black bear walking around a lake near his home, which was shared with a Cleveland-area television news station.
Peltier’s home is about half way between Mantua and the Geauga County line, leading her, and wildlife officials, to believe that the same bear was spotted in all three locations.
Emmert said black bears are generally docile, unlike brown bears, which tend to be more confrontational. She likened them to "overgrown raccoons," and said most of them don’t know how big they are. Most are young, male bears coming from eastern Pennsylvania to avoid conflicts with larger bears back home, after being pushed out by their mothers, who are breeding again.
The bears often try to make their way to West Virginia, but often run into traffic, humans and barking dogs that make them uncomfortable, and many end up heading back east.
Although bears tend to move away from people, they might lash out at humans if they are cornered, or if they lose their fear of humans by associating them with food. For that reason, people should secure their trash cans, keep barbecue grills clean and shouldn’t leave pet food or bird feeders outside.
If you see a bear while outside, she recommends slowly backing away while making noise and waving your arms above your head to appear larger. Pets should be kept indoors, she said, because even though black bears generally don’t pose a threat, they might lash out if they are cornered. Other animals also pose threats to pets who go outside, she added.
Bear sightings tend to peak around July 4 and slow down as summer winds down, she said. If you spot a bear, report the sighting at www.wildohio.gov, where an interactive tool allows you to upload photos or video, or by calling the ODNR district office at 330-655-2293.
Peltier said she is grateful that her family was indoors and was never in any danger. But after the incident, she realized how nonchalant her children were about reporting the bear sighting.
"They just said ‘it’s a bear,’ " she said. "There was no fear. Maybe we need to do some education."
Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or email@example.com.