Bear sighted near campus

Samantha Laros

Students search for elusive wild animal

A frenzy swept through Kent Sunday night after a Flash ALERTS message warned students that a black bear was seen near campus, prompting former student Ray Campbell to say “It was a wild Sunday.”

Kent City Police received a call at about 8:30 p.m., Sunday, stating that a black bear was spotted near Devon Place, according to a police report. Responding police saw the bear along state Route 261, east of South Water Street. When the patrol car stopped, the bear retreated to the woodline.

Despite the warning not to approach or feed the bear, several students say they couldn’t resist the urge to see the bear for themselves.

“We were sitting around doing nothing, and we got the message and we were bored, so we decided to go look for the bear,” said Brett Polczynski, senior Web design and programming major. “So we jumped in my car and drove to campus. When we got close to the Student Center, behind the Gym Annex there is an alley that’s not really a road. A truck (full of students) came flying out from there and the one guy yelled, ‘Are you bear hunting, too?’ We said yes and they let out a cheer.”

Campbell said shortly after receiving the Flash ALERTS, several of his friends dressed themselves in camouflage and set out to find the bear.

“I got a text from this one girl who said she met people while out hunting. She said she ended up hanging out with them later that night,” Campbell said.

He joked that the buzz surrounding the bear sighting led to an impromptu unity among students.

“With the way this brought the university together, especially in the summer, I wish they would send out random text messages like that more often,” he said.

Geoff Westerfield, research technician for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said he believes the bear has been tracked for a few weeks now. He said the bear spotted in Kent is likely the same one seen in Canfield in mid-July, and it may have originally come from Pennsylvania.

It is not unusual for bears to travel long distances, usually in search of a water source. While black bears are nonexistent in Ohio, they are more populous, even hunted regularly, in Pennsylvania, he said.

“Unfortunately, the bear doesn’t have a number tag on his ears, so we can’t know for sure if it is the same one,” he said.

Westerfield said the Ohio Division of Wildlife typically gets 50 to 125 bear sightings per year. They are usually searching for food, and he recommends that people living in areas where bears are spotted monitor their bird feeders and trash cans.

“If you see a bear, and you are far enough away, try to get a picture,” he said, “but always keep safety in mind.”

To sign up to receive Flash ALERTS, go to

Contact police reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].