East Texas Black Bear Task Force encourages residents to report possible black bear sightings

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Founded in 2005, the East Texas Black Bear Task Force is a non-profit coalition of state, federal, private industry, and private citizens who seek to support the restoration of the black bear in its historic range of East Texas through education, research and the creation of a well-informed public.
Information regarding black bears in East Texas as well as the East Texas Black Bear Task Force may also be found on the organization’s Facebook page.
As cool temperatures enter eastern Texas and hard masts begin to drop, white-tailed deer may not be the only native species seeking the nutrient dense acornsin preparation for winter. The black bear, whose native range once spanned Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma has begun to reappear in portions of its native East Texas territory after original populations were devastated by loss of habitat and over harvesting throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This reemergence is due in large part to the Louisiana black bears’ designation and protectionas a threatened subspecies under the Federal Endangered Species Act, as well as the reintroduction of American black bears toArkansas in the 1960s. The growing populations in adjacent states have resulted in a natural, slow return of the speciesto eastern Texas in small numbers. It remainsillegal to kill or harm a black bearin Texas, with violationscarrying significant fines, jail time and/or loss of hunting privileges. Texas Parks and Wildlife began documenting black bear sightings and deaths in 1977, and since that time, the number of sightings has increased significantly in certain portionsof East Texas. In September2011, an adultfemale bear was photographed on private property in Red River County, leading to the possibility of the female breeding with transient males in the area. Because there has not been aconfirmed breeding population of black bears identified in East Texas, past research has focused on East Texan’s attitudes towards bears, as well as the requirements of suitable bear habitat and habitat availability within the region. Suitable areas of habitat capable of sustaining a small bear population have been identified throughout the regionby separate studies conducted by Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

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