Bear sighting

An Ashland police officer snapped a photo of a bear in Ashland near Charles Russell Elementary on Tuesday.

Several residents of Ashland reported what appeared to be a black bear near Russell Street Monday night. The Ashland Police responded to 911 calls placed by concerned residents, and were able to verify the presence of at least one of the animals — and managed to snap a picture of it on Monday.

“We have been in contact with biologists and wildlife authorities,” Ashland Police Chief Todd Kelley said on Tuesday. “Bears are out foraging, and we have been advised to tell residents not to approach a bear if one is sighted, and to report the sighting to local authorities.”

Kelley said conventional wisdom regarding wildlife such as bears is to make certain all pet food is not left in open dishes or even outside containers. Outdoor grilling equipment should be cleaned after every use because the scent of the grills will also attract the animals who are searching for food. Experts even recommend keeping a close watch on domestic pets who might provoke the bear.

Ashland city commissioner Matt Perkins said he shares residents’ concerns over the sighting, and would like to ensure the safety of both Ashland residents and the bear as well.

“They (bears) are out looking for food like any animal would,” said Perkins, adding that he hopes the appropriate agency will be successful in relocating the animal that has caused such a stir.

“If you’ve ever been to the Smoky Mountains, you know that in areas like that sightings of bears are common,” Perkins said. “But for the safety of our residents and the bear itself, we don’t want to do anything to attract them, and we don’t want them to become too comfortable around people. The last thing we want is to have bear sightings on Winchester or Greenup avenues, because there is traffic there all hours of the day and night. If you should see the bear, keep your distance and call 911.”

Recent studies by government wildlife agencies show that bears, once thought to have left this area for good, have been migrating back into the area.

Deforestation during the early 1900s robbed them of their natural habitat (hardwood forests), but the regrowth of those forests following regulations placed on the logging industry decades ago have facilitated a migration into the area from the bear populations in West Virginia.

Black bears are not exceptionally aggressive as a rule, but should not be approached. And residents should consider that even though young bears might not be obviously present, the presence of young will dramatically increase aggression on the part of adult animals. Never approach a bear cub, and notify 911 immediately.

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cromans@dailyindependent.com

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