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 Russell A. Graves

WILDLIFE

Bears Are Back: How to Stay Safe

As occasional bear sightings continue to crop up in the western and southwestern portions of the state, the likelihood of spotting a bear in a populated area increases. Black bears are native to Texas and are a part of our natural heritage and the Texas ecosystem.

In October, a black bear sow and her cub were spotted in the city limits of Del Rio. TPWD employees use standard hazing methods — loud noises and annoyances — to scare bears like these out of residential areas and into more wildland environments. If hazing is unsuccessful, and the bears have been allowed time to relocate themselves but haven’t done so, trapping and physically removing the animals is the next step.

“Our bear hazing protocols provide the best chance for the bear to live wild and relocate itself naturally,” says Jonah Evans, TPWD mammalogist. “Trapping and relocating a bear is extremely invasive and puts a lot of stress on the animal, sometimes resulting in mortality.”

Evans says that if bears are relocated, they may not stay in the new area. Once bears associate people with food, they’re more likely to stick around.

That Del Rio sow and cub may have been drawn to cat food left out by residents to feed strays. Residents in areas where bears have been spotted should secure anything that could be a potential attractant (garbage, pet food, bird and deer feeders, etc.).

Unfortunately, the sow was shot and killed by a Del Rio resident; it’s under investigation by Texas game wardens. The cub was moved to a New Mexico wildlife center.

“Bears, in most instances, are not a danger to people,” Evans says. “In 120 years in the lower 48 states, there have been fewer than 20 fatal attacks by bears. Compare that to 20 fatal attacks yearly by domestic dogs. Other cities throughout the country have found ways to peacefully live with area bear populations, and we can do the same in Texas.”

Black bears are a protected species in Texas. If you see one, please stay away and don’t try to feed it. If a bear exhibits aggressive behavior toward humans or causes property damage, notify your local police immediately.


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