Why the Black Bear BOOM Went BUST

Black bears snacking on deer feed.

Black bears snacking on deer feed. Image: Larry Meyers.

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife lovers were optimistic with increased reports of black bears in West Texas in 2011 and 12. Mammologist, Jonah Evans, says the drought drew animals across the Mexican border; yet, once the rains fell, so did reports of bears.

Yes, it was a blip as the result of the drought—but that’s the way that dispersal happens. And that’s the way that bears recolonize: in pulses. So, they’ll pulse out into the landscape, try to find little places where they can survive.

Evans says bears that relocate take a risk, and many do not make it. He adds that bears follow the food. So I asked about the feasibility of creating bear-attracting habitat in West Texas.

They want big oak trees making lots of acorns, or pecan trees, or fruit trees, or things like that. And those are things that take many, many years or even decades to establish. With white-tailed deer, you can put in a food plot, and next the next year, you’re feeding deer. It’s not that simple with bears.

Then I asked about relocating black bears to suitable habitat—as we’ve done with eastern wild turkeys.

Given that Texas has so much private land and the bears travel so far, it’s a very tricky issue to release bears somewhere in Texas where they won’t have the possibility of becoming a nuisance on a neighbor’s property.

Jonah Evans says the agency works to support natural recolonization of black bears in Texas.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds Black Bear research in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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