August 21st, 2007 11:32 EST
Black Bears in Texas? Q&A with Texas Fish & Game Executive Editor Chester Moore
Chester Moore sits down for a chat about black bears in Texas.
Freelance journalist Nancy Phillips interviewed Texas Fish & Game Executive Editor Chester Moore about an article in the September issue about a black bear captured on video near Leakey, TX and the possibility of the animals expanding in the Lone Star State. Here's a transcript of the interview granted to Texas Fish & Game.
Nancy Phillips (NP): In the September issue of Texas Fish & Game you have a story about a black bear sighting in the Texas Hill Country. How unusual is this?
Chester Moore (CM): It’s not unheard of but a black bear is something you do not expect to see around Leakey. They are indigenous to the entire state but were pretty much wiped out in the early 1900s. What makes this sighting so intriguing is the eyewitness, a very experienced bowhunter named Mary Bone, captured it on video. In the September issue, we have a great still photo from the film. There are lots of alleged sightings of bears, mountain lions and other animals that are not within the confines of current distribution maps. The problem is when they call an agency to report it they usually get laughed at unless they have some kind of photo or video evidence.
NP: Where did this bear come from?
CM: Well, first off this was not a captive bear, somebody’s pet that escaped. I worked with black bears directly for two years in captivity and have seen numerous bears in the wild. This animal if you watch the whole video definitely acted like a wild bear that had become accustomed to eating from a feeder. There is a growing bear population in the Trans Pecos around Big Bend. Male bears, particularly sub-adults, will travel long distances trying to find a mate. This bear from the video was definitely a male and was probably out looking for female companionship.
NP: Should people expect to see more bears in the Hill Country?
CM: Yes, they should. It won’t be like the region will have a viable bear population any time soon but as the Trans-Pecos population expands, there will likely be more sightings like Mary Bone’s. And with all of the available food including corn feeders and cattle feed on top of natural forage we may end up seeing some bears expanding into the region and staking claim in the extreme southern and western portions of the Hill Country. We are going to dig deeper into bear expansion in Texas and detail the findings in Texas Fish & Game in coming issues.
NP: Are there bears anywhere else in Texas?
CM: Three of our neighboring states have bear populations: Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. We get bears moving in and out from those states and there have been verified sightings. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is currently studying the feasibility of an experimental stocking of bears in the Pineywoods and how to aid bear recovery through natural migration from the other states.
NP: What do you think the status of bears will be in Texas in say 10 years?
CM: I am a believer in American exceptionalism, meaning that in this country we do not have to settle for the status quo or things just being OK. Twenty years ago no one thought we would have increasing bear numbers in the state, but we are. I believe we will see bears in the Trans Pecos continue to proliferate and that we will see some kind of recovery effort in the Pineywoods of East Texas as well. We can have bears back in the state occupying the niche they once filled because of the great foresight of groups like the Black Bear Conservation Committee, research conducted by TPWD and the yearning for the public to have a complete ecosystem that can and I believe will again include one of its apex inhabitants.