Category Archives: Bears

TX Bear Story Wins TOWA Award

Black Bear Crosses Lake Falcon, published here at Higher Calling Wildlife earned first place for outdoor news reporting at the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association “Excellence In Craft” awards banquet in Port Arthur, TX.

The story written by award-winning wildlife journalist & conservationist Chester Moore detailed the story of a bear caught on video by a fishermen swimming from Mexico to the Texas side of the lake.

It also detailed the black bear’s return throughout South, West and Northeast Texas.

“It’s an honor to win this award for a subject I am so passionate about. Hopefully this will help give me an opportunity to raise more awareness to the return of bears to Texas,” Moore said.

Moore, who has recently joined Bear Trust International (BTI), believes conservation groups like BTI and conservation-minded hunters and outdoor lovers will be crucial to future bear management in Texas.

“Texans are not used to bears but in parts of the state they are going to have to get educated. I highly recommend connecting with BTI and learning about bears and bear management,” Moore said.

Moore was awarded 10 TOWA “Excellence In Craft” awards including five first place showings in publication, magazine feature, website and video categories.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be recognized by such a prestigious organization of such talented outdoor communicators,” Moore said.

Besides being the founder of Higher Calling Wildlife, Moore is also co-founder of the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® and the Wild Wishes® program with his wife Lisa where they work with critically ill and abused children in nature settings.

He is also a member of many wildlife and fisheries conservation groups in addition to BTI including the Houston Safari Club Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Coastal Conservation Association, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, The Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society, Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society and the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance.

Moore is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game, host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and  the “Higher Calling Wildlife” and “Higher Calling Gulf Coast” podcasts.

Science Overrides Emotion On Bear Bill

California State Senator Scott Weiner’s “Bear Protection Act” would have ended all hunting of black bears in California.

He withdrew the bill Monday after a vast opposition from wildlife managers, conservation organizations, and hunters.

Bear Trust International’s Executive Director Logan Young said his group strongly opposed the legislation as it was based “100 percent off emotion and had zero scientific data to back it up”.

“Sportsmen and conservationists rallied together to display the true biological facts and proven negative outcomes of what they were proposing. The right decision was made,” Young said.

Under a management system where hunting is one of the tools, black bear populations in California have increased from 10,000 in 1982 to 40,000 in 2021.

And that’s factoring in vastly more people and development that has eaten up their habitat in the last 40 years.

California officials tightly regulate bear hunting with a cap put on harvest annually based on surveys. Last year fewer than 1,000 bears were harvested.

As bear populations have grown in the Golden State, so has the issuance of depredation permits where state officials deem a bear can be terminated due to livestock attacks or dangerous behavior around people.

In 2018 (the last year stats were available), more than 300 depredation permits were issued, which is a full third of the usual harvest in the state. Banning hunting would certainly increase human-bear and livestock-bear conflicts, ending in more killing of bears.

Science should dictate wildlife management, and what California is doing now works.

I love bears.

In Texas, I started Texas Bear Aware, a program that raises awareness of black bears returning to the state in 2007. Through Texas Fish & Game magazine, we have distributed thousands of educational posters and worked with tens of thousands of wildlife class students on bear issues.

And it’s not so we can hunt them.

It will be a long time before these animals are ever at a huntable number in Texas unless some drastic migration happens. And it won’t.

Banning bear hunting where they are flourishing (300,000 in the Lower 48 and 600,000 in North America total) is pointless.

There are real bear issues right now that need looked at around the globe. In America, helping support wildlife overpasses like ones instituted in Colorado and Texas will save their lives.

More importantly, on a global level, species most American’s don’t know to exist are having real problems.

The world’s smallest bear, the sun bear, which lives in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia is a prime example.

A sun bear (Public Domain Photo)

These bears are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, and there is great concern due to an increased market for their bile.

Traditional medicine adherents use the bile, and while most comes from bile farms where bears are kept in tiny cages and have their bile harvested from them in shocking ways, wild-caught bears replenish those that die (and they do so frequently).

Poachers also kill them for their claws and other parts, and they catch babies to sell as pets.

The sloth bear is truly unique among bears. (Public Domain Photo)

The sloth bear of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal has had increasing issues in the human-conflict arena. Supporting education initiatives for the species from groups like Bear Trust International, for example, would do much to help them.

We support these actions and have used our media platforms to raise awareness throughout the world.

There are bears out there that need protecting, but they’re not in California. They need managed, and the current system is doing a great job of that.

No system is perfect, but when wildlife managers follow the North America Model of Conservation that allows hunting as a tool, wildlife flourishes.

And that’s precisely what bears are doing in California.

Chester Moore

Florida New Year’s Bear Serves As Reminder

Niceville, Fla, located on Florida’s “Emerald Coast” in the Panhandle (Gulf side) is not known as a great bear viewing destination.

But on Jan. 3, a neighborhood there got a special treat seeing a hefty black bear having its choice of tasty food in the garbage.

I would have been pumped!

Seeing bears is a fairly rare experience for most of us and I would have certainly been out there with my camera at a cautious distance, but then immediately do what I could to make sure it didn’t happen again.

That means not feeding pets outside, certainly not purposely leaving food for these animals and perhaps figuring out a way to go bear proof with the garbage cans.

There’s an old saying in wildlife management that a “fed bear is a dead bear”.

What that means is bears fed around people get to comfortable and often have to be taken out. That might not sound fair but it’s the way it is.

And as much as we invest in bear awareness here, it’s better to remove a bear than have one kill a child.

It happens.

People get way too comfortable around black bears. They assume because they are not grizzlies, that they are safe.

And while black bears are not as aggressive…lets says on the average, they do attack people. And in fact, most black bear attacks are predatory.

While a grizzly might whack you around because it doesn’t like you in its habitat, most black attacks are predatory. That’s why every fish and game department in bear country recommends fighting back against a black bear attack.

And those in grizzly country, recommend playing dead for grizzlies. Grizzlies might just chew on you. Almost all black bear attacks are of the predatory kind.

As these animals expand in places like Florida and my native Texas people need to be aware of this and give the bears their distance and respect. You shouldn’t be terrified if you see one but also shouldn’t treat it as you would a whitetail doe sighting.

Niceville, Fla.-not exactly Yellowstone in terms of wildness.

Bears coming back is a good thing. It represents a conservation victory but the public needs to understand they are wild animals, not cartoons.

Like, I said I would have shot photo of this one too but with my 400 mm lens from a vehicle, not a cell phone at charging range. Just sayin.

These carnivores make places wilder and in this case, it added some wildness to a nice, suburban neighorhood.

Considering how crazy things are in the world right, a bear showing up in the bushes outside of my bedroom would be a welcome relief.

I would just make sure my response would be best for my family and the bear.

Chester Moore

Black Bear Photographed Near San Diego-Texas!

Israel Hernandez was expecting to see deer on his trail camera on a hunting lease near San Diego, TX.

After all, the region is known for its large-antlered and abundant whitetails.

He was shocked however to get this photo of a black bear.

This confirmed sighting is evidence of continued black bear movement from Mexico into South Texas.

Last summer we posted a story and accompanying video of a black bear swimming from the Mexican side of Lake Falcon into Texas. You can check that out here.

Black bears are native to both Mexico and Texas.

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

Most of the population lives around Big Bend National Park, but there are verified bear sightings and road kills near Alpine and also where this bear was photographed in Duval County and Southwest of there in Zapata County.

Black bears are also slowly returning to the Pineywoods of Texas from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. 

You can read our story on that here.

Black bears are making a comeback in Texas and we lead the coverage on the issue. Subscribe to this blog for in-depth stories of black bears in Texas and information pertaining to mountain and forest wildlife from throughout North America.

Chester Moore

Bear education Necessities

This summer has been a fun one here at Higher Calling as we have been on a three month long quest called “Summer of the Bear”.

The goal has been to raise awareness to bears and bear conservation around the world.

It started with reporting on greatly increased bear sightings in my home state of Texas and has seen us doing lots of giveaways including plush bears for kids and special edition Texas Bear Aware tokens.

This week ends our summer bear project and we’re doing it in a big way publishing this podcast I recorded with Jack Evans of Bear Trust International.

A large black bear photographed by the author in Estes Park, Co. in August. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Listen to the show below as we talk about that organization’s great conservation education work.

Thanks to everyone who participated by sending emails, social media interaction, photos and videos.

The “Summer of the Bear” was a big success thanks to you.

Chester Moore

The Bear And The BBQ

Last Tuesday, me and my friends Todd and Annie Jurasek spent a full day exploring the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Co.

We had built up quite the hunger, so before heading back to the lodge, we went to a barbecue restaurant we enjoyed the day before.

But at 8:30 it was closed.

We decided to pick up some fast food on the way back, so I pulled out of the parking lot and drove off.

Less than 200 yards away, I looked to the left and couldn’t believe my eyes.

The bear at Estes Park, Co. (Photo by Chester Moore)

A large black bear was sitting on top of a rock about 75 yards away.

“That’s just a statue,” Todd said as I ran out of our SUV with my camera.

“Maybe so, but I have to see,” I replied.

As I focused my camera, I was not sure if I had missed some sort of elaborate statue all of the times I had previously passed by this spot or was looking at an actual bear.

After all, it was dark and it was only lit by street lights from down the road.

As I adjusted my camera settings, the bear moved it’s head and I knew I was looking at something special.

Todd and Annie quickly joined me and we were astonished this large bear was sort of chilling on a rock on the side of the road in the neighborhood. Todd has just prayed for us to have a bear encounter and the Lord responded quickly.

2020 is our “Summer of the Bear”.

He hung out for another minute or so and then lumbered off the rock into the darkness.

Interesting Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department (CPWD) officials made this post this post on Thursday.

Tuesday a bear was seen walking near downtown Estes midday, around 12:30pm. Local LE officers were able to haze the bear away from downtown and it went up a tree near the Birch Ruins.

Wildlife Officer Rylands arrived on scene to assess the situation and help make sure people were not approaching the bear. Rylands asked the bear if it could please remain up in the tree and take a nap until nightfall when there would be less people and cars moving about. Thankfully the bear heeded his request and made itself comfortable on the branch.

CPWD officials posted a photo of the bear in a tree and it’s hard to tell if it’s the same one we saw the same day.

Either way it shows bears on highly adaptable animals and will move into area of human habitations.

If you encounter bears in these settings or in the woods, be careful not to approach or spook them and never feed bears. Obey all bear safety guidelines in parks and respect the fact these beautiful animals are potentially dangerous.

Summer 2020 is the “Summer of the Bear” here at Higher Calling Wildlife and this encounter was a personal highlight for me.

I love black bears and I love Estes Park, Co.

Amazing place.

Amazing animals.

Chester Moore

Paddington Bear: Endangered And OVERLOOKED

Author Michael Bond impacted several generations with his iconic “Paddington Bear” series.

Featuring a spectacled bear from South America, a species known little outside of its indigenous range, the books and animated features have done more to raise the profile of the species than anything.

They are the only South American bear species and are named for the light pattern on their face, neck and chest that in some individual resembles spectacles or eyeglasses.

A spectacled bear. (Public Domain Photo)

According to the Wildlife Conservation Network, little is known about this elusive bear and while the mystery surrounding them may add to its mystique, it does little to further its conservation.

Lack of knowledge about these bears considerably compromises the conservation management for the species.

This rare, charismatic bear is highly endangered, primarily due to habitat fragmentation that has caused bears to lose access to critical feeding areas. Although this bear is generally found in humid, alpine cloud forests, Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC) discovered a population of more than 65 bears in the low elevation dry forest, providing a unique opportunity to observe these bears in the wild.

SBC says spectacled bears are a vulnerable species seriously threatened by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict.

The lack of knowledge about spectacled bears in the wild impacts our ability to make conservation decisions or plans. Spectacled bears are the only bear species in South America with potentially as few as 2,500 mature individuals remaining. 

I have reached out to some researchers to get some in-depth information on the species we will hopefully be able to post soon. Until then, enjoy this introduction to the beautiful, enigmatic and endangered spectacled bear.

Chester Moore

Donate to help spectacled bears through Spectacled Bear Conservation by clicking here.

We donated $50 in honor of our daughter Faith wanting to champion bear conservation. And hopefully this little donation will inspire others who read this to donate. (Chester and Lisa Moore).

Growing Threats To Bear Conservation (Podcast)

Join Chester Moore as he interviews Logan Young, Executive Director of Bear Trust International to discuss the often overlooked topic of global bear conservation.

Listen here.

Topics discussed include the following:

bear_trust_logo

*Bear Trust International’s vision for global bear conservation.

*Addressing bear education needs for school children

*Grizzly hunting ban controversy in Canada

*Overlooked bear species such as the sloth bear of Asia and the spectacled bear of the Andes in South America.

If you have any interest in bears you need to hear this episode.

 

Don’t Laugh At A Sloth Bear

Bears & Others Carnivores, an edition of the iconic Wide World of Animals series was one of my favorite books growing up.

I would read it and gaze at the photos for hours while imagining encountering these creatures in the wild.

One photo, however, always made me chuckle a little.

It was a sloth bear, native to India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal and it looked like someone gave a really bad poodle hair cut to a skinny black bear.

1slothbear
Photo Steve Garvie/Creative Commons License

Sloth bears are indeed unusual with a shaggy black coat, long, curved claws, and a pale-colored “v’ or “y” pattern on their chest. These bears typically weigh between 200-300 pounds at adulthood and specialize in eating fruit, termites, and honeycombs.

The name sloth bear comes from the original western description of the species according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

The first valid scientific description of this species was by George Shaw in 1791. He called it Ursine bradypus, ursine meaning bearlike and bradypus meaning slow foot. Bradypus is also the genus of three species of sloth. At the time, Shaw thought that the bear was related to a sloth. Time and additional specimens eventually revealed the true taxonomic relationships, but the confusing common name remains.

Although the name implies the slow, chill nature of a sloth, these bears are anything but that.

sloth bear with babies
Photo Samadkottur/Creative Commons License

There are more attacks from sloth bear any other bear species as they are easily agitated and live in a region where there are huge human populations moving in and out of their forest habitat.

In a 2018 study entitled Sloth Bear Attacks on Humans in Central India: Implications for Species Conservation researchers Singh, Sonone, and Dharaiya, noted an increase in sloth bear attacks in India.

Sloth bears are known for their aggressive and unpredictable behavior. More human fatalities and injuries have been attributed to sloth bear attacks than all recorded incidences of wildlife attacks in Buldhana Forest Division of Maharashtra, India. We interviewed 51 victims that were attacked by sloth bears between 2009-2017 to better understand the reasons for the attacks.

Thirty-four of the attacks (66.7%) resulted in serious injuries, and there were seven human mortalities (13.7%) reported. Most attacks occurred close to agricultural fields (66.7%) and during midday (1100–1400 hours).

More attacks (64.7%) occurred when a person was working or resting in the field, or retrieving water for the field followed by attacks while watching over grazing livestock (13.7%). Individuals aged 31 to 40 years (35.3%) were the most common victims of sloth bear attacks. Half of the attacks were during monsoon season (July to October, 51%) followed by summer (March to June, 35%) and winter (November to February, 14%). In 39% of cases, a single bear was involved while females with 2 cubs were found to be involved in 37% of attacks.

According to the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN), sloth bears population status is “vulnerable”, meaning they are not yet threatened or endangered but a variety of factors could change that quickly.

Sloth_Bear_area
Sloth Bear Range/IUCN Red List

One of those factors is conflicts with people. It can be hard to get people behind an animal that attacks and sometimes kills people but it can be done especially when measures can be taken to greatly reduce incidents.

The odd sloth bear is not likely to become the symbol of any sports franchise or restaurant chain but they certainly deserve to be conserved and managed like all other bear species.

sloth bear
This is the photo that caused young Chester to giggle. Come on! That’s a funny bear photo! Of course human-sloth bear encounters are often no joking matter for people and the bears.

I still laugh a bit thinking about the photo of the extra poofy-haired sloth bear in my book as a kid but after learning more about them I wouldn’t want to laugh in their presence.

They might not take too kindly to that.

(For more information on sloth bears and bear conservation go to www.beartrust.org.)

Chester Moore

 

 

Oklahoma Bear Videos

The big increase in bear sightings across my native state of Texas has inspired me to make Summer 2020, the “Summer Of The Bear” on all of the Higher Calling media properties.

In the podcast we did with Stephen F. Austin University officials, we learned in the eastern third of Texas, the best migrational routes in terms of undisturbed habitat for bears to preoccupy Texas comes from Oklahoma.

We will have more on that in a special report soon.

Until then my close friend and research partner Todd Jurasek got some incredible game camera videos of black bears in the Kiamichi Mountains in Southeastern Oklahoma, showing the Sooner State has a burgeoning bear population in some areas.

People in states that have had large bear populations for decades like Oregon, Montana, and Alaska understand these animals but all forest-loving Americans need to become bear aware and realize these apex animals are increasing in the southern and eastern portions of the country.

Enjoy these awesome clips. This is just the beginning of an epic summer of bear coverage from around the globe.

Chester Moore