Are There Bears in Hocking Hills? (sometimes!)

Are There Bears in Hocking Hills? (sometimes!)

Encountering native plants and animals while out hiking or enjoying nature is part of the adventure. People want to know what the chances are of encountering any dangerous animals or plants before heading out and generally do some research. We are here to help with a little guide on where there are bears in Hocking Hills, where they hang out (if at all) and how to prepare for a trip with this in mind.

Bear History in Hocking Hills

Black bears historically roamed Ohio with frequent sightings in the past, but sometime around the mid-1850s, their numbers went down drastically due to hunting and habitat loss. As with most animals who experience unregulated hunting, sightings became more rare and some moved further away to neighboring states. Black Bear are now moving back to the rolling hills of Ohio to stake claim. Most are coming from Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Hocking, Ross and Vinton Counties have listed several sightings since 2018. There are warnings advising people to be aware of where they have dens, what to look for in Spring when they wake up from hibernation and how to prepare if a sighting occurs (hopefully from afar). 

What Attracts Bears

The question of are there bears in Hocking Hills is interesting because the answer is yes and sort of. It is expected that nature is going to be part of the adventure in Hocking Hills but people can still prepare for any encounters and be safe. Once a black bear finds food, it can cause damage to property and make them likely to return to the site of their crime. Most commonly, bears are attracted to:

  • Trash
  • Pet food 
  • Bird feeders
  • Food waste that is easily accessible (campgrounds or camping outside of normal areas)
  • Strike around dusk or dawn, mostly at night when they are more active

Encounters with bears can be terrifying but they don’t have to be if people practice staying calm. 

Tips for Bear Sightings

When people encounter a bear from afar (or up close), the first reaction is naturally to panic. First tip of bear sightings: stay calm. They are extremely rare to see in the wild anywhere near humans as the activity is likely to scare them away. Bears do love to chase anything that runs, so refrain from sprinting as much as you might want to. Move slowly away and watch its movements. If the bear comes too close:

  • Yell very loudly
  • Wave arms wildly
  • Make bear retreat by making loud noises on anything like pots, pans or things that make a ruckus to scare it off
  • In extremely rare cases where an attack happens, use sticks, rocks, or anything possible to get away

Chances of Bear Sightings

The answer to are there bears in Hocking Hills should not be intimidating as only 100 are estimated to be living in the whole state of Ohio. Preventive measures like being more loud while out hiking like clapping, whistling or talking to others can help deter bears from coming close. Their first inclination is to stay away from humans. They are typically drawn to food or scraps left behind. Stay away from any bears spotted, regardless of interest in photographing or videotaping them. Wild animals feel threatened by other beings and are unpredictable. Keep in mind bears are fast and great runners. Black Bears are endangered species in Ohio and sightings are rare. 

To track wildlife, report sightings to the county wildlife officer or specialist by calling 800-WILDLIFE to report sightings to ODNR or emailing bear@hockinghills.com to describe the experience.

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