Two reports of a "six-foot tall" Black Bear on State Route 800 North were reported to the Barnesville Police Department Thursday.
Both sightings were reported to the Belmont County game warden, who received two reported sightings on Friday - one in the Morristown area near the Fine Day Campgrounds and the other near the I-70 rest area at milepost 210.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources web site, black bear sightings in Ohio have increased steadily since 2003, reaching a high of 164 per year in 2010. According to the web site, Belmont County is one of five counties considered to be the "best places" for Ohio Black Bears.
Those sightings occurred in 23 Ohio counties, with most in northeast and southeast Ohio.
ODNR figures state that approximately 31 different Black Bears were confirmed in Ohio in 2010. That number was up from 119 received during 2009. The estimated number of individual bears (87 in 2010; 72 in 2009) and number of verified sightings (64 in 2010; 51 in 2009) also showed an increase.
Wildlife experts say that Ohio's Black Bear population may be increasing, but sightings increase in the spring and summer months because that is when young male black bears travel on a quest to find their own territory and a young female bear. It is also the time of year that female bears, who stick to a limited territory, force their one and a half year old cub to leave the family.
According to the ODNR web site, male bears, known as boars, weigh about 300 pounds and females, known as sows, weigh about 150 pounds. A 700-pound Black Bear was reported in Pennsylvania.
Black bears, who were completely driven out of Ohio by deforestation by 1850 are considered an endangered species and now occur in forested habitats throughout the eastern half of Ohio.