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Black bear sightings in Texas remain rare

File photo
File photo

HOUSTON – According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials black bear sightings tend to increase in the fall as the animals prepare for hibernation. Still, state officials say confirmed sightings of black bears on public land remain rare.

How many sightings have there been?

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife there have been 61 Black Bear sightings in 14 counties over the last two years. State mammologist Jonah Evans said sightings tend to increase in the fall because the bears are foraging food and trying “fatten up” before hibernating for the winter. Evans said Black Bears may be making a come back in Texas. However, the state lacks the resources to track and estimate the total population.

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Should the public be concerned?

Evans said there have been no major issues with bears in Texas over the last five years. In fact, since 2017 there have only been a handful of reports of bears being a nuisance. Evans said these reports usually entail bears getting into trash or sniffing around camp sites. If a bear is becoming a nuisance, Evans encourages the public to notify Parks and Wildlife so game wardens can scare the animals away from an area. Evans said the goal is to prevent a bear from associating people with a source of food. To report a bear encounter call 800-792-1112.

What should I do if I cross paths with a bear?

Evans said do not run because that may trigger a bear’s chase instinct and gives the appearance you are prey. He said never turn your back to a bear, but immediately start backing away slowly. Evans said even if a bear is growling, stomping or standing up on its hind legs still keep backing away because the animal is likely trying to communicate it feels threatened. Evans said bears are typically not aggressive.

Evans said if a bear approaches you, try to appear large by raising arms above your head. Evans said you can also yell at a bear to try to scare it off. Evans said the only time a person should truly be concerned is when they see a bear following from them from a distance with ears back and head down. He said this may be a sign of stalking.