Bob Downing

A black bear was shot and killed late Thursday by Uniontown police because officers feared that the bear posed a threat to residents.

The bear, a young male, was killed shortly after 8 p.m. with four shots from a .223-caliber rifle off Pontius Road NW on the Summit-Stark county line, said Uniontown Police Chief Harold Britt.

Initially, two Uniontown police officers were trying to coax the 210-pound bear out of the residential area east of Cleveland Avenue NW off Sweitzer Street NW, he said.

The goal was to get the bear out of the residential area and into more open spaces, he said. The bear was shot after it turned and tried to move back into the neighborhood.

“It’s nothing we wanted to do, but it’s something we felt that we had to do,” the chief said of killing the bear.

The outcome was one state officials wish could have been avoided.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources prefers that non-violent steps, including trapping, be used to reduce bear-human conflicts, said spokeswoman Jamey Emmert.

“We’d prefer a different outcome. But we weren’t there. We can’t judge.… When people are at risk, officers must act,” Emmert said.

Britt said the officers at the scene made a judgment that the bear posed a significant threat to neighbors.

“We didn’t want to shoot the bear. We would have preferred that it just go away,” he said.

“But we felt that human safety was at risk.”

He added, “It was a very, very residential area.”

No injuries were reported among neighbors and there is no evidence of anyone being directly threatened by the bear, he said.

The bear was wandering through backyards and, in one case, wandered onto a deck, Britt said. A lot of people were outdoors, and that increased the risk to residents, he said.

Uniontown police transported the bear’s carcass to the state offices.

The bear was a little larger than might have been expected for its age, Emmert said.

It weighed 210 pounds, and most bears of that age would typically be 150 to 170 pounds.

It may have wandered into northern Stark County from as far away as Pennsylvania. That’s because young males tend to wander in search of mates in late spring and early summer and may roam long distances in search of their own territory.

The state is sending one tooth from the bear off for analysis that will provide more details on its age, Emmert said.

It is possible that the bear might be 2 years old, she said.

Chief Britt said Uniontown police received the first call about the bear about 8 a.m. The caller reported a bear at state Route 619 and Pontius Road.

Police investigated both streets that do not intersect and found no signs of a bear, Britt said.

A few hours later, at 10 a.m., a second call reported a bear at state Route 619 and Mogadore Road.

Shortly before 8 p.m., the bear was spotted north of the Rolling Green miniature golf complex on state Route 619 near Mogadore Road where 60 to 70 people were playing golf, he said.

The officer and the owner of the golf facility went to the rear of the property and the bear then moved to the north and west along Sweitzer and Pontius, according to Britt.

He said his department then got numerous calls from panicked neighbors.

If the bear had crossed Pontius, it would have moved into Springfield Township and no longer been a Uniontown matter, Britt said. The south side of the road is in Stark County.

In 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources received 224 sightings for an estimated 93 black bears in the state. Of those, 65 were confirmed by agency personnel.

The number of bear sightings in 2012 increased from 152 in 2011.

Portage County had the most unconfirmed reported sightings in 2012 at 36. Trumbull County had the most confirmed sightings: 10.

Portage had six confirmed sightings in 2012 with Ashtabula, Geauga and Mahoning counties each with five.

Black bears are a state-endangered species and protected by state law.

They disappeared from Ohio in the 1850s, but they have moved back from neighboring states since the 1980s.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.