Black Bears are part of an intact food-chain
Black bears have lived in North America for about two million years.
Black Bears - lat. Ursus americanus are native to the US and are found all over North America - there are 16 subspecies of the American black bear.
Other North American bears are:
Grizzly/brown bear and the polar bear.
In the Southern United States
Black bears - ursus americanus remain in the protected mountains and woodlands of parks and preserves. Bears that wander outside the parks have found new territories, - always threatened by hunters.
Black Bears are usually 5 to 6 ft long with a shoulder height of 2.5 to 3 ft. Standing up, a Black Bear can reach up to 7 ft tall - females are a third smaller than males. Black bear males can weigh 150 lbs to 660 lbs.
Black bears have a lifespan of about 20 years, they can run up to 35 mph, climb up a tree easily and are good swimmers. Black bears are omnivores with a diet of plants, meat, and insects. Only 12% of their food is animal matter.
Never feed a black bear, he will learn to come back and ask for more - feeding bears endangers humans and bears!!!
Bears can smell very well and find human garbage, so please, don't expose bears to this thread.
The black bear's diet changes seasonally. In spring black bears eat mostly grasses, greenbriar, and tree cambium.
In summer black bears love to eat green vegetation, seeds and berries - all kinds of berries: dewberry, blackberry, elderberry, grape, poke berry, dogwood and persimmon fruits.
Insects are also part of black bears diet.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, suitable forest communities include the species bald cypress, water tupelo, river birch, American sycamore, cottonwood, American elm, green ash, Nuttal oak, overcup oak sweetgum, water oak, swamp chestnut oak, and cherrybark oak - food, cover and water and a place to live without human disturbance - that's what Black bears are asking for.
Why are bears so rare in the Texas Hill Country?
This medium-sized bear, black to brown in color, with rather long coarse fur, is considered shy and retiring. A typical adult black bear weighs between 200 and 400 pounds, with some reaching 500 pounds. Preferring woodland and forested habitats, they formerly roamed the majority of Texas in considerable abundance. Although deemed carnivores, black bears are more accuractely described as omnivores, showing considerable variation in their diets. Along with an affinity for honey, insects, nuts, acorns, berries, roots, and forbs, black bears will take fish, carrion, and camp garbage. Occasionally, a stressed or otherwise ornery individual may take young deer or small livestock - an infrequent behavior that was a contributing factor to the bear's eventual demise in Texas.
It is largely believed that Texas bears were entirely gone from the state by the 1950s. The last documented strongholds occurred in the Davis and Chisos Mountain ranges of far West Texas, and a rumor of bear sightings in the wild woodlands of eastern Matagorda County was never dismissed. As a cheap and readily available source of meat for ranch/plantation workers and hounds, as a trophy hunt for both size and number killed, and to prevent depredation of livestock (primarily hogs, sheep, and goats), these animals experienced unsustainable hunting pressure through the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Plateau's Beryl Armstrong shares the story of John Leakey founding a sawmill in Rio Frio in the late 1870s. Leakey hired a local hunter to provide meat for the workers until they could get a livestock operation established. During the course of a year, the hunter brought in 51 bears, after which bears were never again seen in abundance in the area. A 1945 report from the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission (precursor to Texas Parks and Wildlife) illustrates the yearly tradition of the Womble Family. From 1850-1860, Mr. Womble engaged in a yearly bear hunt in the Devil's Pocket area of southeastern Wharton County. Over a couple of days, Mr. Womble would hunt and kill enough bears to fill a wagon.
Killing a bear for fun or for the thrill was quite normal, and this behavior continued till today. Little to no control was exercised in the management of bears until it was virtually too late.
1973, restrictions on bear hunting were put in place and, not until a decade later in 1983, was hunting bear completely prohibited.
Finally, after reports of infrequent sightings and a five year investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, black bear were placed on the state endangered species list, currently listed as threatened. The federally threatened Louisiana sub-species, formerly found in east Texas, offered additional federal protection by the Endangered Species Act. These protections make it illegal and punishable by jail and/or fine to kill, harm, or harass all bears in the state of Texas.
Reports of reestablishment in west Texas began in the mid 1980s and, in 1988, photographic documentation of a sow with cubs near Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park provided the undeniable evidence. With these occurrences, black bear could again be counted present on the wildlife roll call of Texas. In the beginning, the majority of bear sightings on both sides of the state were likely of nomadic young males wondering in search of productive forage sites but, with the documented presence of females and young, support for a self-perpetuating west Texas population grew.
Black bear sightings within the western Edwards Plateau region are not new, but have been primarily confined to the area surrounding Del Rio. Relatively recently, many reports and verified observations have occurred north and east of the area.
A black bear was recently killed near Mountain Home by a man who reported he felt threatened for himself and his dogs. This particular bear was a young 103-pound male that had been a welcome guest of some of the local landowners. Necropsy results show that its last meal consisted of prickly pear tuna (cactus fruit) and a feral hog.
Another bear was killed this year in an auto collision near Comstock, and additional bear sightings have been confirmed recently near Menard, Leaky, and Kerrville. These sightings are more frequent during drought years as younger individuals search for steady food sources and territories. Meteorological conditions appear to serve as the fuel for migrations, whereas surplus animals, in an area of pre-established occupation, are the engine.
Wildlife biologists have been tracking observations throughout the Edwards Plateau, collecting photographs, estimating their numbers, and even tracking the movement of individuals. Many challenges remain as long as people can just claim to feel threatened to kill a bear.
The return of the black bear is exciting and encouraging - the type of event wildlife biologists live for!
Mike Kruegar of Texas Parks and Wildife is the main "bear guy" in the Hill Country and west Texas and can be reached at (830) 896-2500.
Penalties for illegal killing of a bear range up to $10,000, jail time and loss of hunting privileges.
Bear Sightings Increase In Northeast Texas
Habitat Exists For Population
Tyler Morning Telegraph
The question no longer appears to be if black bears will return to East Texas, but when will there be an established population.
Once commonplace throughout the state, the last known native bear in East Texas was believed shot in Polk County in 1950.
Beginning in the 1970s a few bears began trickling back into the state, wandering down from Arkansas and Oklahoma and on rare occasions Louisiana.
Since 1990, about 35 sightings have been recorded in Northeast Texas, leaving researchers to believe the bears are on the verge of settling in. 'There is evidence of bears in East Texas, north in Red River County,' said Dr. Christopher E. Comer, associate professor at College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Comer is heading a research project in conjunction with the Black Bear Conservation Coalition, an organization that promotes conservation for the southern black bear, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Research students from SFA have just completed a two-year look at bear frequency and habitat in Northeast Texas and are beginning a similar project in the southeast corner of the state.
Comer said this has been an unusually active summer for bear sightings in Northeast Texas with three or four separate bears caught on game cameras at feeders. All are believed to be young males that have struck out on their own or forced out from an area with a high bear concentration. 'They come to Texas and there is a lot to eat and no competition. They can get food from (deer) feeders and there are a lot of berries and acorns,' Comer said. The bears don't stay because after a while they get lonesome and return to an area where there are females.
Comer said the natural progression of movement into an area seems to start with an incidental sighting of two young males. In time those sightings become more frequent as the bear numbers increase. Eventually, the females will arrive and populations become established. 'The females tend to move more slowly. What is going to lead to a population in Texas is when it becomes a part of the Oklahoma population,' Comer said. He added, 'Red River County seems to be in the middle of that phase.' Comer said Southeast Texas is in the first phase. The state's Trans Pecos region, south of I-10 and east to Del Rio, is in the third stage. 'We consider that occupied bear habitat. We know we have breeding bears there and in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park,' said John Young, TPWD mammalogist, who oversees the department's mountain lion and bear programs.
Young said the West Texas bears moved into the state from northern Mexico beginning about 17years ago. That population has been expanding, but is slowed in years of drought.
Bear numbers in Oklahoma have climbed to the point that the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission has instituted a limited hunting season in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties in the Southeast corner of the state, just north of Texas' Red River County.
In the spring of 2007, Red River County landowner Mike Ford came across a black bear standing in the road of some property he leases. 'When I first saw it standing in the road it was a half mile away. It was May and we had seen a lot of Eastern turkeys, and I figured it was a gobbler strutting. Then I thought it wasn't a turkey because it was too big and too far away,' Ford recalled. Going down a list of what it might be, Ford said he settled on either a stray calf or a wild pig. It wasn't until got within 400 yards that he realized what he had just seen. 'When it left the road, just by its gait I said, 'That's no hog. That was a bear.' I have been hunting in Alaska and Canada for 20 years, I know what a bear looks like when it runs,' Ford said. Like the Eastern wild turkeys, Ford said he would like to see the bears return to the area. 'We wouldn't have Eastern turkeys if people didn't care and brought them back and we wouldn't have deer in East Texas if people hadn't cared. Whatever we can get back in East Texas that is natural to the area is great,' he said. Unlike wolf repatriation projects, most landowners aren't opposed to black bears because while they are omnivores; they are most likely to feed on berries, acorns, fruits, insects and, of course, the occasional beehive.
As the bears return, SFA's Comer believes they should find a waiting home in Northeast Texas. 'That is what we found using a habitat suitability model. There are not a lot of big trees to serve as dens, but they can do without that. It has been found they can make a den in cover such as a blackberry thicket,' Comer said. He said one concern is the roads through the area, according to the scientific model. In reality, it may not be. 'The guy doing the research (in Red River County) went to states with bears such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and they have higher road densities. I am not sure that is an issue,' Comer said. TPWD placed restrictions on black bear hunting in 1973. It was banned altogether in 1987. In 1992 bears in East Texas were placed under federal protection because those in Southeast Texas were considered a part of the Louisiana subspecies. All bears in Texas were relisted as threatened in 1996.
We got reports from the northern Texas Hill Country that two black bears were seen and photographed roaming around a new house looking for food.
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