PORT ARTHUR — “Black bears rarely attack people but you don’t want to invite problems by conditioning them to come around people. And the truth is the bear will probably get hurt before a person ever does. We need to keep the interest of the animals in mind as well,” Edwards said.
There have been reliable bear sightings in Orange and Jefferson Counties and virtually everywhere else in the Pineywoods region as well as a growing number in the Trans-Pecos region.
“The black bear is a part of Texas’ natural heritage and forest ecology, the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list and is thus the focus of an ongoing restoration effort in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and black bears appear to be poised for a slow return in East Texas,” said Nathan Garner, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist in Tyler.
A possible obstacle the bear’s return in the region is poaching, which still looms large in some areas. Shooting a Louisiana black bear (which all bears in the region are considered) is a state and a federal crime and since they come under auspices of the Endangered Species Act, fines could be as high as $25,000 and come with six months jail time.
Another potential problem is misidentification since bear and feral hogs can look similar at a distance especially when someone is not expecting to see a bear.
That is why it is important for people entering bear country to get educated about these great animals. Their comeback is happening right now.
For years state officials thought most East Texas sightings were lone males but this sighting and others like it show these animals are establishing a breeding population right here in our area.
It will be a long time, if ever that black bears are common again here but you have to admit it is pretty cool they are coming back at all.