A Bear of a Problem for Texans


Black Bear | Image by Texas Parks and Wildlife/Facebook

As Texans prepare for fall to turn into winter, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is urging residents in certain regions of the state to practice bear safety and to report any bear sightings. Bears, specifically black bears, can be spotted in northeastern, southwestern, and western regions of the state, according to a press release from the TPWD.

“The black bear is a protected and rare species in the state of Texas,” the TPWD website shares.

The animals will start denning from the months of November to May. While in a deep sleep during this time, bears can still be disturbed and woken up. Black bears will den in caves, hollow trees, thickets, and brush piles, according to the website.

“Black bears are native to Texas, a part of the state’s natural heritage and ecosystem. They are guided by an excellent sense of smell, and their behavior is driven largely by appetite,” the press release states. It is because of these natural attributes that bears may pose a problem to humans.

“If a bear continually finds food around humans, it can become habituated, losing its fear of people and creating a potentially dangerous situation,” the release continues. For this reason, it is best to avoid providing easy access to garbage, pet food, or corn from a deer feeder to bears.

During fall, bears are especially looking to eat since it is their last opportunity to do so before denning up for the winter.

In August, two trails in Big Bend National Park had to be closed due to increased bear activity.

A recent photo from the Brewster County commissioner, Sara Allen Colando, showed a bear tearing into the trash of a barbecue restaurant, according to the TPWD.

The post featuring the photo also urged residents to use bear-proof dumpsters through their disposal companies.

“Bear-proof garbage containers are a great option that many communities have deployed to reduce bear encounters,” the press release states. “TPWD biologists encourage keeping trash bags in a secure location until the morning of trash pickup and feeding pets inside or limiting pet-food portions to an amount that can be consumed completely at each feeding.”

Unwelcome mats were also suggested to deter bear activities. These mats can be placed by outdoor fridges or freezes, doors, fences, and windows. They use nails or rough wood to keep bears away without seriously injuring them, according to the press release.

Since black bears are protected by the state of Texas, it is illegal to harass, hunt, or kill them. Rather, the local police department should be notified if one of these animals is seen.

Penalties for killing a black bear, according to the TPWD, can include a loss of hunting privileges, jail time, and fines of up to $10,000.

The TPWD has shared some safety tips to follow should any Texans encounter a black bear someday.

First and foremost, residents are urged not to run from the animal because this can cause it to chase after them.

“If you encounter a bear at close range, talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact,” the safety guidelines explain.

It goes on to add, “If a bear approaches you, stand your ground and raise your arms, backpack, or jacket to appear larger. Yell at the bear to scare it off.”

Playing dead is never recommended because the bear will see you as easy prey.

Bear encounters can be reported to the TPWD at 1-800-792-1112 or by contacting one of its regional offices.

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