Tag Archives: black 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.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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:

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*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.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

TPWD Notes Bear Activity in NE Texas

For the second time in less than a week, officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD have released a statement on increased bear activity in the state. The last one as reported here involved sightings in the Trans Pecos.

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Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The new reports are from Northeast Texas along the Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana borders.

From TPWD…

Since April, there has been an uptick in black bear sightings in Bowie, Grayson and Titus counties in northeast Texas. The bears are thought to originate from the neighboring states of Oklahoma and Arkansas, or possibly Louisiana, where resident bear populations are well established and expanding. As the numbers of this iconic species grows, dispersing black bears find their way across state lines into Texas, signaling the possibility of its eventual permanent return to our landscape.

“It is inspiring as a biologist to watch these animals make their return to Northeast Texas after being absent for a century or more,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologist, Penny Wilkerson.

“Bears do not generally pose a threat to pets or livestock. These critters are omnivores and are more interested in berries, grubs, and acorns than anything else,” Wilkerson said.

The last time TPWD sent out a press release regarding black bears was 2017 and there was another in 2016. Before that, the last release was in 2012.

For TPWD to send out two releases in a week shows there is a major change in bear activity and likely some kind of bear emphasis coming from the department.

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Researchers show black bears are returning to East Texas. The question is are breeding populations established or are bears seen here visitors from neighboring states? (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

We covered bear sightings on Lake Falcon in South Texas recently here as well as another near Bay City dating back a decade.

The lack of activity in the woods, state parks, and wildlife management areas due to COVID-19 this spring has in my opinion given bears a little more leeway in the woods and emboldened the animals in areas where they have been lurking in the shadows for a number of years.

A recent report from just across the border in Oklahoma shows landowners frustrated with the amount of bear activity. And one of my research partners Todd Jurasek got numerous bears including a 400 plus pound bruin on video in the Kiamichi Mountains along the Texas-Oklahoma corridor.

I will be posting those videos soon along with a massive update on bear sightings by county in Texas.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

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

Bear crosses 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.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

 

 

 

Ursus Americanus In Texas

The tracks were so fresh I expected to see their maker appear at any second.

Nearly as wide as my two hands combined and nearly as long as my foot there was no doubt these were left by a very large black bear.

I kept my camera ready as any encounter would be up close and personal.

In a remote area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California, I was at a stretch of river where huge boulders lined the shores, creating a rugged maze.

It was wall to wall granite with the ground being a mix of smaller rock and sand.

Reader Al Weaver captured this photo of a black bear near Bay City, TX on the coast over a decade ago. Did this bear travel from the Davis Mountains or some other Trans-Pecos location down to the coast? Or did it cross from Louisiana where a small but growing bear population lives.

The tracks that ended at a huge flat outcropping led me  close to the river. The view was stunning  and I took time to savor the moment but my quarry remained elusive.

An hour later I found myself a few hundred  yards above this location.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught slight movement.

Through the binoculars what looked at first like a bush turned out to be a black bear standing as if something had caught its attention too.

I am not sure if it was the same bear whose tracks I had followed.

Perhaps it had caught scent I left behind but one thing is for sure. The chill that ran down my spine at that moment reminded me of why I pursue wildlife and  on this occasion wildlife might have very well been pursuing me.

After all, I was in this majestic animal’s domain.

Ursus americanus is the most abundant bear on the planet with an estimated 600,000 scattered throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. They are a true wildlife conservation success story but not all is well.

Parts of their historic range are devoid of bear while some others are starting to see the first sign in decades.

My home state of Texas is a prime example.

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

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 Kerr County.

In fact, bear sightings in the Texas Hill Country have increased dramatically in recent years. One even paid fisheries biologists at the Heart of the Hills Hatchery near Ingram a visit-an area that hasn’t regularly had bear sightings in well over 100 years.

To read the full story that originally appeared in Texas Fish & Game click here.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.