Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials issued a notice Wednesday concerning the recent number of bear sightings in Central and South Texas.

Reports of black bear activity in the Hill Country and in South Texas along the Rio Grande have been increasing, TPWD officials said.

TPWD biologist Jonah Evans, the department's bear coordinator, said the sightings are likely due to bears from Mexican searching further and further north for food after severe droughts and wildfires in their natural habitats.

He said though historically it has been rare for bears to be sighted south or east of Val Verde County, so far in 2012, there have been a dozen sightings.

Black bears were initially native to all of Texas, however in the early 1900s, heavy hunting and trapping eliminated them from the state, Evans said in a statement.

He said the bears are not a risk to humans but can become a nuisance if they obtain a taste for human food, pet food or trash.

The most effective strategy, he said, is for residents along the border to secure their trash, bird feeders, and pet food, so bears don’t become accustomed to easy meals.

TPWD is asking for people to report all bear sightings. If a bear is causing a nuisance, TPWD will work with residents to shore up easy food access and may attempt to "haze" the bear. In extreme situations, the bear may be relocated.

Bear activity reported so far this year includes:

  • Maverick County — Jan. 26 — Sighting
  • Starr County — July 30 — Relocated
  • Kimble County — Aug. 6 — Sighting
  • Menard County — Aug. 8 — Sighting
  • Schleicher County — Aug. 8 — Sighting
  • Sutton County Aug. 12 — Sighting
  • Webb County — Aug. 27 — Killed on road by vehicle
  • Uvalde County Aug. 31 — Sighting
  • Kinney County Sept. 25 — Sighting
  • Maverick County — Oct. 14 — Relocated
  • Val Verde County — Nov. 3 — Sighting
  • Edwards County — Nov. 5 — Sighting