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Black bears invade Texas

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - They disappeared from Texas for decades, after excessive hunting and loss of habitat, but black bears are on the comeback trail in Texas.

Wildlife experts say, there is no mistake now, black bears are coming back to Texas in numbers, and a small army of conservationists are working to make their transition smooth, for the bears, and for Texans.

"My neighbor saw 3 on the road we came down a while ago, on the river there's been 3 or 4 sightings," says Red River County wildlife naturalist John Nichols.

Black bears are moving into Texas from Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mexico, but Red River County  has been a hotbed of sightings.

"This is a ten year history about 55-60 sightings here where bears are being seen, these are verified sightings. Just north of town and in Red River County there's a slow return of black bears," says one field researcher.

Adult males run 250 to 300 pounds, and they've been captured on game cameras all over the county.

"I just happened to realize we had a picture of a bear, I got real excited, my wife not so excited,  but I really was," says rancher Don Benton.

 Researchers say adult black bears are very territorial and young males are not welcome, those younger males are now ranging into Texas. At least that's what we thought was happening , but now there have been reports of females with cubs.

Even the Red River County sheriff has had encounters.

"We've had some of the cubs a few years ago there was two of them they were there for a few days," says Sheriff Robert Bridges.

Lennox Woods north of Clarksville is a designated bear habitat, and they've already made their presence known at game feeders.

"If they have found the feeders before then they know where to come back and get the food again," says Benton.

"You know the hair on your back will probably stand up if you see one, you know it certainly would be a surprise to see one," says Clarksville area rancher Bobbie Smith.

But its not just in remote locations, bears have now been spotted outside homes inside the city limits of Clarksville.

Libby Trussell was just looking out her kitchen window.

"I see this huge black object walking down the road this way and coming into the drive, I was terribly surprised. I saw him 3 nights later.  It can't be a bear. wow," she says.

So you'll have an answer now for that shadow walking in the twilight.

"That noise in the brush that you thought was an armadillo maybe take a second thought about that," Benton says.

Wildlife experts say there is no need to be alarmed about the black bear return. They are not aggressive, and omnivorous, which means they feed mostly on plants, berries, nuts and insects.

To keep them away from residences, experts say don't leave anything that would attract them like pet food or open garbage.

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