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Bears Return To East Texas

POSTED: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 3:29pm

UPDATED: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 1:07pm

EAST TEXAS — During the last 50 years, the black bear in east texas has all but disappeared; making it almost mythical in stature.

But, this elusive part of our past is finally making a come back to the piney woods.

Tucked deep in the piney woods, a camera near a deer feeder captures one of nature's giants ...

"We've got sighting maps in basically every county in east texas in the last 15-20 years," says Dr. Chris Comer of Stephen F. Austin University.

Researchers have genetic evidence of at least one bear crossing the Red River.

"We definitely have the habit to support them, it's just a matter of getting them here," Comer says.

So he and graduate student Dan Kominski are on the search for more evidence.

"If bears were going to come in from louisiana, it'd be a great place for them to come in to Texas," says Kominski.

He's talking about Orange and Blue elbow swamp. This means bears could be coming back in the same spot they were last hunted.

"They hunted them with dogs," says Dr. Francis Abernathy.

Abernathy tracks East Texas history, he says decades ago bear hunting here even attracted the nation's top bear enthusiast, Teddy Roosevelt.

"Back in those days, if you saw a bear, you shot it and took it home and ate it," Abernathy says.

The heyday for bear hunting ended, in the big thicket, back in the 1920s.

Now, Kominski is going back there; setting bait for bears. Trying to stay away from humans, bears move quickly through the woods in east texasm but we don't have to see them to know they're there. They leave behind a furry trail.

"It was a lot of walking, a lot of boat work, a lot of wet days," Kominski says about his travels to Blue Elbow swamp. He's hoping bears passing through will leave fur in one of the many hair snares he's set.

"We'd like to detect more than one bear," he says.

It's not just any black bear he's trying to find, this specie is endangered. The Louisiana Black Bear with a brown muzzle is thought to have traveled across the Sabine River.

"Looking for their own territory, looking for females, that sort of thing," Kominski says.

The find would mean bears are coming to east texas from two spots: Arkansas and Louisiana ...

"There are a lot of fears out there about black bears and the damage they can do and 'is it going to hurt my children?' 'is it going to hurt my livestock?' Stuff like that; all which is unlikely." Comer says.

Instead, Comer says, it could be the missing link in an ecological circle broken so long ago along these same river beds.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is collecting reports of bear sightings in east texas. Remember shooting a bear, anywhere in east texas, is against the law and could mean jail time.

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Strange sighting alert: I kid you not, I just returned from the store down the road and saw something kind of long in length and medium in height, black in color, muscular looking, body kind of close to the ground run across the road about a mile from my house... he did not run into the woods but into the culvert on the other side... did not have big ears. STRANGE sighting for sure! I could have sworn it looked like a baby black bear!!!!

I thought I just saw a small black bear run across the road I live off in Karnack, TX-it was low to the ground in running and looked as if it may have been a baby!!! I kid you not, went to look up black bears in E. Texas and found this forum! It ran low to the ground, all black and very small ears.... the way it ran was not of a ran like a bear you see on television! Very bizarre sighting here for sure!

Black bears are mainly herbavores; so I doubt seriously if any would try to kill a feral hog for food. But if enough bears do come back they possibly could crowd out feral hogs out, but that would take an awful lot of bears!

Very interesting article! I agree with Bill, we need predators to help control the feral hog population.

You go...Dr. Comer!!! Good job. Keep tracking that bear hair!

Bring on the black bears! Perhaps they will cut down on the numbers of feral hogs!

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