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Bears Without Borders

Cross-border educators meet to coordinate conservation activities.           

By Maria Araujo

“Su oso es mi oso,” David Veale told a group of Mexican biologists, ranchers and hunting club members. The group had gathered at Chaparral Wildlife Management Area in South Texas to coordinate wildlife conservation activities along the border and to sharpen their skills as hunter education instructors.

“Black bears from Mexico use a number of cross-border corridors, particularly young bears looking for a new home,” said Veale, South Texas district leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division.

TPWD reported five bear incidents during a four-month period in an area along the border stretching from Maverick County down to Starr County. Two bears were trapped and relocated to remote habitat, and one was killed by a motorist near Laredo.

On the Mexican side, human-bear conflicts were numerous.

“Since 2008, the Nuevo León state parks and wildlife agency has received more than 200 bear reports, and approximately half of those cases involved trapping and relocating,” reported Guillermo Herrera, wildlife biologist. Those numbers do not include activities conducted by Cumbres de Monterrey National Park and Consejo Estatal de Flora y Fauna Silvestre de Nuevo León, a nongovernmental organization that works with ranchers.

For better management, Nuevo León’s policy is to microchip all trapped bears, and Herrera encouraged Texas to do the same. The group exchanged valuable information on aversive treatments for  relocated bears.

“We really can’t do much to change a bear habituated to trash and an easy meal,” Veale said. “The best approach is to educate people so they can help us keep bears and other wildlife wild, and in the wild where they belong.”

The meeting’s skill-building activity focused on animal track identification.

“Don’t expect to learn how to age an old animal track to the nearest hour,” said Jonah Evans, TPWD mammalogist. “You see this on TV, but it’s completely unrealistic.”

Evans debunked other tracking myths and taught the group members simple track identification rules to enhance the field techniques they use in their hunter education courses.

public hunt

Bears are a cross-border issue for the Texas-Mexico group, which met in South Texas.

Since 2008, hunter education instructors from Mexico and Texas have met at least once a year to further their skills as instructors and exchange information on how to help one another. It is a binational collaboration that evolved from the Wildlife Work Table of the Border Governors Conference, a forum of the 10 state wildlife agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Omar Treviño, hunting commission president of Club Deportivo Cazadores Monterrey, spearheaded these binational hunter education workshops and is now honorary area chief of the Texas Hunter Education Program.

“Since our training under Inter-national Hunter Education Association standards in 2008 as part of Mexico’s Hunting Federation, we have taught and certified over 15,000 people in Mexico to be safe and ethical hunters,” Treviño said.

Treviño translated hunter education materials to Spanish and offered to team-teach classes in Spanish to help reach the Hispanic community in Texas.

“It’s rewarding to help families pursue this sport safely,” he said, recounting the story of a doctor who attended his class with her husband and her son. The doctor’s father, a surgeon, had his medical career cut short by an accident that occurred when he improperly handled a firearm while crossing a fence.

Cooperation is always fostered at these gatherings. Dr. Alejandro Treviño, a Mexican landowner, and his son will teach a hunter education class in McAllen with Ignacio Perez.

“My wife and I want to teach a class in Spanish in its entirety at least once a year,” said Perez, “and now we’ll be able to meet that demand in our area.”

Javier Medina-Fernandez, a Mon-terrey native now living in San Antonio, invited Jorge Villarreal, secretary general of Nuevo León’s Council on Flora and Fauna, to help in his hunter education classes.

“I’m proud of the collaboration between Texas and Mexico, and it’s important that our Hispanic community hears about it from our Mexican colleagues,” Medina-Fernandez said.

Nearby, Jorge Villarreal advised Alejandro Treviño Jr., a college freshman, about wildlife management careers and encouraged him to apply for an internship at Chaparral WMA.

When the group meets again, it will be to study another cross-border issue, feral hog control. They also decided that with so many pressing issues, the meetings should now occur more than once a year.

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