Texas Bear Expansion-What You Need To Know

Officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) have issued a press release noting a dramatic increase in black bear sightings in the Trans-Pecos region of the state.

This comes just a day after our report of a black bear filmed swimming across Lake Falcon several hundred miles away from the Trans-Pecos.

“There has been a flurry of bear activity in the Trans-Pecos recently. Reports of black bears wandering into Fort Davis, Alpine, and Fort Stockton were received this past week on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, respectively,” said Michael Janis, TPWD Trans-Pecos District Leader.

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(Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Black bears are generally shy, reclusive creatures but there comes a point when populations grow when that can change.

There is no hunting pressure in Texas and Mexico so there is no reason to fear people. In these situations, they may begin approaching human habitations and dry conditions like west Texas is facing now will amplify the issue.

My concern is Texans are not bear aware.

To most encountering bears is something that might happen once-in-a-lifetime when they visit Yellowstone or in the Smoky Mountains.

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I first published this photo by Al Weaver in Texas Fish & Game in 2010. This bear was photographed near Bay City, TX on the Middle Coast.

And these Texas bears are not just in the Trans Pecos.

For more than a decade I have recorded sightings in the Hill Country, South Texas, and along the Middle Coast. The East Texas bear population is a different issue and we will touch more on that next week but there are increasing sightings in the eastern third of the state as well.

Texans need to understand a few things about these unexpected inhabitants of its wildlands.

The following is from TPWD.

Bears have an excellent sense of smell and much of their behavior is driven by their appetite. These natural characteristics can, however, become a problem when bears find an easy meal from a human-related source such as garbage, pet food or corn from a deer feeder. If over time a bear continually finds food around humans, it can become habituated, losing its fear of people and creating a potentially dangerous situation.

Fellow hunters, we are now in the off-season. If you have a bear hitting a feeder, a good option is to shut it down and let the bear move on. Feeding in an area might keep the bear around and give you problems with your feeder (they’ll tear it up) or maybe an unwanted up close and personal encounter.

Another option is electricity.

Bears are sensitive to electricity however, so electric fences can be used to prevent bears from accessing feeders while still allowing deer to reach them because of their ability to jump the fence.  Although an added cost, electric fencing can pay for itself in the prevention of lost feed and damage to a feeder.

TPWD biologists say education is the best way to prevent human-bear conflicts

Residents in areas where bears have been spotted should secure anything that could be a potential attractant (e.g. garbage, pet food, bird and deer feeders, etc.). Residents can also choose to invest in bear proof garbage dumpsters, a recourse that many communities in the western U.S. have deployed to reduce or prevent bear encounters. Double-bagging garbage to reduce odors and keeping bags in a secure location until the morning of trash pickup are also encouraged practices. Similarly, TPWD biologists recommend feeding pets inside or limiting pet food portions to an amount that can be consumed completely at each feeding.

Black bears are potentially dangerous animals. And while they are not likely to attack, their ferocity upon attack can be fatal.

In a story in the March/April 2020 edition of Sports Afield, I outlined a surprising study on black bear attack behavior.

A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.

Here is the standout quote.

“We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88 percent of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92 percent of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.”

There are a couple of things that should jump out at outdoor lovers here.

  1. If you are attacked by a black bear you must fight back. While many grizzly attacks are territorial or perhaps because the grizzly didn’t like you way you looked that day, most black bear attacks are predatory and nearly all of the fatal ones are. Play dead for grizzlies. Fight like crazy against a black bear.
  2. Big male bears are the biggest threat. If you see one in an area or have game camera photos of one, take extra precautions.

Black bears are protected in Texas, so hunters should keep that in mind and especially when hunting hogs in areas with bear sightings at night. A bear could easily look like a hog hitting a bait pile especially if you are using night vision or thermal imaging.

Black bears returning to Texas is exciting but everyone needs to stay informed. I will continue coverage here as the great American bear returns to the Lone Star State and shows up in places where few expect to see them.

(TPWD is requesting bear sighting information. Click here to find a biologist in your area. Email chester@chestermoore.com to send bear photos and videos.)

Chester Moore

Border Bear: Black Bear Swims Across TX-Lake Falcon (Video)

Lake Falcon on the Texas/Mexico border is known for its huge largemouth bass and monstrous alligator garfish.

So, when 15-year-old Joseph Belcher and his uncle Sherman Pierce hit the water in mid-June 2020, they were focused on fish.

That is until they noticed something swimming across the lake.

Moving closer to investigate, they saw a black bear coming from the Mexican side and were able to capture footage of it mid-lake and were gracious enough to share it with Higher Calling. Thanks to Larry Belcher for making the connection.

Black bears are native to both Mexico and Texas.

Ursus americanus eremicus, the Mexican black bear, is protected from harvest in Mexico and Texas, and over the last two decades, they have been spilling into Texas from the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains and other areas.

Most of the population is centered around Big Bend National Park but there are verified bear sightings and road kills near Alpine and also as far east as Zapata County where this sighting took place.

A 2012 report shows another bear sighting in the county but this one was on dry land.

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The Bay City area black bear. (Photo courtesy Al Weaver)

Ten years ago a hunter named Al Weaver sent me this photo from Bay City, TX on the north-central tier of the Texas Coast. I wrote about it in Texas Fish & Game in 2010.

Last year, I wrote this story, showing this individual had to take a pretty fantastic journey to end up where Weaver got the photo.

It’s called “Journey Of A Wayward Black Bear”.

Black bears are also slowly returning to the Pineywoods of Texas from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Listen to the podcast I did with officials from Stephen F. Austin University for a lengthy discussion on this topic.

The extent of the black bear’s return to Texas will have much to do with habitat quality, access to migration points, and protection from poachers.

If you are intrigued by bears in Texas, follow this blog. There is more to come.

Chester Moore

Check out the Higher Calling podcast with Stephen F. Austin University officials talking black bears returning to East Texas here.

Moore To Appear on “Hunting Matters”

(Houston, TX- June 24, 2020) Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) and “Hunting Matters” welcome Chester Moore, an award-winning wildlife journalist, and conservationist and Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game. Moore will appear on the program 6-7 a.m. Saturday, June 27 on KPRC AM 950.

Chester is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game magazine and contributes to Sports Afield, Hunter’s Horn, Deer & Deer Hunting, Tide, The Lakecaster, and many others. He is the host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and of The Higher Calling podcast. Chester has authored 15 books including Hog Wild: Hog Hunting Facts, Tips & Strategies, Texas Waterfowl, and Flounder Fever. He is a lifelong hunter and angler who enjoys everything from bowhunting wild turkeys to surf fishing for sharks to fly fishing for rainbow trout.

His heart is for conservation and youth. He was awarded the Advocatus Magni award in 2020 from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work with wild turkeys, the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy award in 2017 for his work with children and wildlife, and was named a “Hero Of Conservation” by Field & Stream magazine. Altogether he has won more than 150 awards for conservation, writing, radio, and photography. He and his wife Lisa operate the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® and Wild Wishes® programs which give wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness, in the foster system or who have lost a parent or sibling. Their latest project is Higher Calling Wild Wishes Expeditions which takes teens from those programs into the forest and mountains to mentor them in using photography and video to raise awareness and funds for wildlife conservation.

His favorite animals are wild sheep and his most amazing wildlife encounter was cage diving with great white sharks in the Pacific. His most important roles however are as a follower of Christ, husband, father, and mentor.

“Hunting Matters” airs each Saturday from 6 am-7 am CST on KPRC AM 950 – Real Texas, Real Talk, a Houston iHeartMedia station, and Houston’s longest-running radio station. Listen live online here. You may also listen to each episode as a podcast, following live airing, by downloading the SPREAKER app to any of your devices! Or, listen online, at spreaker.com/show/hunting-matters.

About Houston Safari Club Foundation
Houston Safari Club Foundation (HSCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the sport of hunting through education, conservation, and the promotion of our hunting heritage. HSCF has awarded 550 scholarships totaling $2.5 million dollars. HSCF conducts youth outdoor education programs, career training, hunter education, and field experiences throughout the year. HSCF has provided over $4 million in grants for hunter-funded wildlife, habitat, and various conservation initiatives. HSCF is an independent organization, is not affiliated with Safari Club International (SCI) or its affiliates and is not a chapter or affiliate of any other organization. Visit our website at wehuntwegive.org or call 713.623.8844 for more information. HSCF. We Hunt. We Give

America Is Still Beautiful

Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain.

I’ll never forget sitting alone on a rock on a distant hill in South Dakota watching the northern lights as a pack of coyotes sang in the distance. The skies were truly spacious and grain plentiful as I ended a long day of pheasant hunting with friends.

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For purple mountain’s majesty. Above the fruited plain.

Just as the sun rose above the Montana mountains, I could finally understand the lyric “purple mountain’s majesty” as one of the peaks in the distance had a light purple hue. It was a special moment because in the plain below, just in front of me were two pronghorn bucks in an intense battle, almost as if to say, “I’ll be the king of this majestic scene.”

Oh, America how God truly shed His grace on thee, even before anyone other than the Creator Himself set foot here you were special.

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(Photo by Chester Moore)

And I have been exceedingly blessed to see so much of your beauty.

From the incredible pink dolphin that graced our presence on the Louisiana coastline to the hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese I have seen in those marshes.

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(Photo by Chester Moore)

From the Rocky Mountain bighorn I photographed at 12,000 feet in Colorado to the big eastern gobbler I bagged in the rolling hills of New York.

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Chester is a passionate turkey hunter. Here he prepares for a long walk back to camp with an eastern turkey taken near Cato, NY. (Photo by Lou Marullo)

And Texas, our Texas, oh hail my home state.

From the big bucks of the Pineywoods to the ocelots in the valley to the clear streams of the Hill Country and the mule deer of the west. You are incredible.

America was not chosen by First Nations people or European settlers because it was a big chunk of land. It was because of abundant timber, water and wildlife. America’s very greatness is tied to its wildness.

Naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

And while the exact intent of Thoreau’s quote has been debated since he wrote it, there is no question America without wilderness is not America at all.

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The author photographed this bighorn at 12,000 feet in Colorado. Photo by Chester Moore)

And the further we get from the roots our ancestors planted, the further off track we’ve become. There are agendas on top of agendas for destruction of this nation. To plunder it To control it. To manipulate it and confuse.

There are so many voices demanding our attention, it is crucial that all hunters, anglers, hikers, campers and wildlife lovers go out into the wild for clarity.

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(Photo by Chester Moore)

I just returned from a remote area of Texas and at one point found myself in crystal clear water, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs and there was no one around. Even my fishing partners were about 1/2 mile away and it was just me, God and His creation.

There was no one telling me who to be angry with. There was no one demanding political affiliation, holding a sign or fighting.

There was…peace.

America looked quite beautiful from here and I suspect on my coming trip to Alaska it will be just as majestic. As I seek to photograph Dall sheep, the only intent will be to capture one of the Lord’s finest creations to share with the world so others can care about their existence.

When I have been on wild turkey releases, bighorn captures, bay cleanups and stream enhancement projects there has been only one true agenda. To keep America wild and ensure what our forefathers no matter where they came from first marveled over when reaching the country remains.

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(Photo by Chester Moore)

Don’t let anyone tell you America is not beautiful anymore.

Don’t let anyone tell the nation is not worthy of adoration. I have ventured from sea to shining sea and feel blessed I was born here to experience the wild things that inhabit our woodlands, waterways, mountains, prairies, marshes, deserts and tundra.

Politics and media manipulation enter the woods only if you bring it.

It’s time to go beyond the pavement, into the wild and thank God for shining His most creative blessings on the United States of America and its wild lands.

Chester Moore