black bear

Black bears once roamed and ruled the forests of north central Ohio.

LOUDONVILLE -- Though today the Mohican area is mostly safe from dangerous animals, the hills and forests were once home to large numbers of bobcats, cougars, wolves, and even bears.

Modern black bears, with limited habitat, average 100 to 400 pounds in weight and are generally afraid of humans.

With unlimited habitat and food supply, like when the first settlers arrived, bears were often much larger and more dangerous. The largest known black bears weighed up to 900 pounds and could run at over 35 miles per hour, and were not used to -- or afraid of -- human beings.

Early settlers made sure to never leave home without a gun, and many kept loaded muskets near the door to protect their home and livestock.

As settlers slowly arrived from the safer states along the east coast, however, many were unaware of the danger lurking around every corner. In 1817, Conrad Castor left Pennsylvania and settled outside of Perrysville in Green Township.

Within only four weeks he had his first encounter when a large bear came within only 20 feet of his cabin door. Conrad, unarmed, had no choice but to let the bruin pass. It wouldn't be Conrad's first encounter, nor would he learn his lesson to always keep a firearm nearby.

His next encounter was recorded by Horace Knapp in "A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County."

"In September, 1821, Mr. Castor was returning home, toward the close of day, from an examination of some lands in the neighborhood, and, when within about 40 rods of a clearing, his attention was called to a crackling sound in advance of him, and following on some distance, discovered it to be a bear and two cubs.

"When within about 20 steps of the 'family,' the cubs ascended a tree, and the old bear commenced a rapid advance upon Mr. Castor.

"Being without a gun, or even a knife of any description, he lost no time in seeking safety climbing a small tree. He barely made good his escape.

"The enraged brute would stand erect against the trunk of the tree and gnash her teeth at Mr. Castor, and then lie down, fixing upon him her glaring eyes, and beating the ground heavily with her huge paws. As night was rapidly approaching, he began to feel anxious about his release, and raised his voice for help.

"His dog was the first to come to his aid; and the moment the bear saw the dog, she immediately stationed herself at the base of the tree upon which rested her cubs. Mr. Castor instantly availed himself of the opportunity, and sprang from the tree, and was soon at the nearest clearing, belonging to Nathan Wyatt.

"Here, within a few minutes, a party of four were assembled, properly armed, and, aided by three dogs, set out to capture the bear. The dogs were soon engaged with her, but she made short work with them, striking them with her paw, and causing the strongest among them to reel under her powerful blows, and seek protection, by piteous howls, of their masters.

"The timber and dense underbrush afforded such concealment of the bear that the efforts of the hunters were baffled, and they returned to their homes, leaving her the victor."

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