Thanks to successful black bear conservation efforts over the last two decades, the iconic species is making a return to Texas.
The black bear is a protected species and is still considered rare for the state of Texas, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials.
Black bears have a protected status in Texas as they are still a threatened species and it’s against the law to hunt, harass or kill them.
A news release from TPWD officials on Oct. 20 notes that bear sightings are continuing to crop up in the west and southwestern regions of Texas.
One such instance occurred on Oct. 16 when a black bear sow and her cub were spotted in the city limits of Del Rio. The bear was shot and killed on Oct. 19 in a residential neighborhood. That incident is under investigation.
The week before another bear was spotted on the roof of a home in Sanderson. TPWD officials said the bear was eating pecans from the resident’s tree.
TPWD officials said when a bear is sighted in residential areas they employ bear hazing procedures "which often include making loud noises, and in some cases, shooting non-lethal flash rounds, paintball rounds or rubber buckshot rounds at the bears” in an effort to scare the animals away from residential areas and into more wildland environments.
“Our bear hazing protocols provide the best chance for the bear to live wild and relocate itself naturally,” said TWPD mammologist Jonah Evans. “Trapping and relocating a bear is extremely invasive and puts a lot of stress on the animal, sometimes resulting in mortality, and there’s no promise then that relocation will be successful.”
Evans said relocating bears is also problematic because there’s no guarantee they’ll stay where they have been moved to and often bears will start to associate people with food, increasing the likelihood that the bear will return to a residential area.
“Bears, in most instances, are not a danger to people,” Evans said. “In 120 years in the lower 48 states, there have been fewer than 20 fatal attacks by bears. Compare that to 20 fatal attacks yearly by domestic dogs. Other cities throughout the country have found ways to peacefully live with area bear populations, and we can do the same in Texas.”
If you see a bear, do not attempt to feed it. If you are in an urban or developed area, and notice a bear exhibiting aggressive behavior toward humans or causing property damage, notify your local police department or sheriff’s office immediately and request that they contact the local TPWD Biologist or Game Warden.
Male black bears weigh 150 to over 350 pounds and typically range over an average of 20,000 acres while female black bears weigh 120 to 250 pounds and range over an average of 5,000 acres, according to TPWD officials.
It is a violation of law to kill a black bear in Texas, with penalties of up to $10,000, added civil restitution fines, jail time and loss of all hunting privileges, TWPD officials said. “Hogs and bears can look very similar. Know your target!”