Tag Archives: black bear

Black Bears Swims Lake Falcon

Zapata, TX—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,  fish were the focus.

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 video footage.

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 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.

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

Ten years ago, a hunter named Al Weaver took this photo in Bay City, TX, on the north-central tier of the Texas Coast. 

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Al Weaver photographed this young black bear while on a hog hunt near Bay City, TX.

That bear had to take a pretty long journey to end up where Weaver got the photo no matter if it came up through Mexico or perhaps from the northeast in Louisiana.

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.

For now, outdoors lovers around Lake Falcon and elsewhere along the Mexican border should be especially aware bears are returning.

And if these migration trends continue, all Texans who participate in the outdoors should become bear aware for the sake of the bears and themselves.

Chester Moore

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

 

 

 

Journey Of A Wayward Black Bear

About 10 years ago, a man by the name of Al Weaver sent me a photo of a black bear he encountered while hog hunting with dogs.

The interesting part is that he was hog hunting near Bay City, TX in Matagorda County.

Bears inhabiting the Trans Pecos region near Big Bend National Park and slipping across the border from Louisiana and Arkansas into the Pineywoods are well documented but Bay City is far from these locations.

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The dogs they were hunting with scared the bear into a tree and it was left alone while the hunt continued. The photo of this bear is aboveĀ and as you can see it appears to be a a youngster.

It is most likely a male as young males will often travel far to start searching out mates but (male or female) how far did this one travel?

Lets say that bear entered Texas from Louisiana right at my home town of Orange coming across the Sabine River into the Blue Elbow Swamp which sits literally at the juncture of the Pineywoods and coastal marsh. This would also allow the closest access from Louisiana.

By car this is 155 miles which if you see the blue line would have the bear going through downtown Houston. That obviously did not happen. The straight path would lead it across the fifth largest bay system in the nation. That did not happen either.

The animal would have to at some point cross Interstate 10 or enter the wider spaces of the Sabine just south of Interstate 10 in Orange and maneuver through the coastal prairies, make its way around the Galveston Bay complex and down to Bay City.

black bear map 1

What if the bear hailed from the Trans Pecos area-say somewhere near Big Bend in the Lajitas area? That’s a 651 mile drive for us and a 472 mile straight shot by air (or bear) covering all kinds of territory along the way from cities to hunting leases to wildlife refuges to international borders perhaps.

black bear map 2 lagitas

Some might argue this was a captive bear that was released but that is very unlikely. Another possibility this is an undocumented bear that was born somewhere in the middle perhaps in the Hill Country where sightings have spiked in recent years or even in the western Pineywoods or maybe along the coast somewhere.

Did you know there were bear hunting seasons as recently as the 1980s along the Texas coast? In my personal collection I have a hunting regulation book from 1979 that had a bear season in Chambers County and have seen others from subsequent years.

Were there really still a few bears along the coast at that time? Any scientific information is scant but it is an intriguing thought.

No matter where this bear came from its origins are interesting as they defy commonly held beliefs about bears in Texas.

This should serve as a reminder that nature still has plenty of surprises left and that bears can show up unexpectedly-even where no bears are known to roam.

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Chester Moore