East Texas' Prodigal Son

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Texas has historically been home to the American black bear (Ursus americanus), with several subspecies found in different parts of the state:  U. a. eremicus (Mexican Black Bear) and U. a. amblyceps (New Mexico Black Bear) in West Texas; and U. a. luteolus (Louisiana Black Bear) in East Texas.

The Louisiana Black Bear ranged over most of East Texas, but was ostensibly extirpated from there in the early 1900s. While at one time its population thrived, it seemed likely that the Louisiana Black Bear in East Texas had finally succumbed to overhunting.

Through the years, federal, state and academic lists of wildlife did not include any mention of black bears in East Texas except perhaps as once having thrived there. A small population of the black bear in the Trans-Pecos region in far West Texas was acknowledged by state and federal authorities, but the rest of Texas was officially devoid of any remaining black bear population. In spite of this, rumors persisted among hunters and rural citizens of the Louisiana Black Bear's continued existence in the most remote parts of East Texas, especially along the Louisiana-Texas state line and in the Big Thicket.

In recent years, there has been a gradual and growing movement of acknowledgement of the black bear's eventual return to East Texas as populations in bordering states seemed to be thriving. It had to be just a matter of time, it was reasoned, before East Texas would once again be home to the black bear, even though a growing number of East Texans (and South Texans) were already claiming personal familiarity with black bears.

Texas Parks and Wildlife began to take reported sightings of the black bear in East Texas seriously, developing a sightings report form for encounters with the species.

Well, it now appears that tomorrow is today; take a peek at Texas Parks and Wildlife's brochure Bear Safety in Mind (pdf).

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Recent incident reports


Occurred 7/9/1988 in Sebastian County, AR

Published on November 3, 2017 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Fisherman has close encounter on lake in western Arkansas. Read more...

Occurred 5/7/2016 in Atoka County, OK

Published on June 17, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway.

Occurred 1/4/2016 in Walker County, TX

Published on March 22, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Husband and wife observe massive upright animal in Sam Houston National Forest on FM 1375 Baker Bridge at Lake Conroe one hour apart. Read more...

Occurred 6/8/2014 in Gonzales County, TX

Published on July 8, 2014 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has an encounter while hiking in Palmetto State Park. Read more...

Occurred 12/20/1983 in Walker County, TX

Published on December 21, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Hunter has close encounter in Sam Houston National Forest near Stubblefield Recreational Area. Read more...

Occurred 12/24/1976 in Tyler County, TX

Published on March 11, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville.

Occurred Fall 2003 in Polk County, TX

Published on March 7, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has highway encounter near Big Thicket National Preserve. Read more...

Occurred 4/3/2012 in Liberty County, TX

Published on April 21, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Man out walking for exercise at local track has unexpected encounter with upright hair-covered subject. Read more...

Occurred 5/15/2009 in Burnet County, TX

Published on April 11, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Motorist has late-night encounter near Balcones Canyon Lands National Wildlife Refuge. Read more...

Occurred 5/1981 in Travis County, TX

Published on November 15, 2011 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Airman reports night-time encounter on Bergstrom AFB.

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