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