The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is advising landowners in San Angelo, Junction, and the surrounding counties of a recent increase in black bear sightings. The first of a flurry of sightings occurred about 20 miles west of Junction on IH 10 on Aug. 6. This was followed by two sightings about 20 miles west of Menard on Highway 190 on Aug. 8, and then another on U.S. Highway 67 between Mertzon and Barnhart (about 30 miles southwest of San Angelo) on the Aug. 12.
“The drought and wildfires have caused bears to disperse in search of food into portions of the state where they have not been seen for some time,” said TPWD wildlife diversity biologist Jonah Evans, the department’s bear coordinator.
“Although all of the sightings have been of a relatively small bear, we cannot be certain that they are all of the same individual,” Evans said. “From the reports, it appears that the bear or bears exhibited a healthy fear of humans and is of very little danger to people.”
Black bears are the smallest North American bear, usually weighing between 100-300 pounds. Evans continued. He said the risk of being attacked by a bear is relatively low. In the last 100 years there have been only 14 fatal black bear attacks on humans in the lower 48 states. In comparison, there are an average of 86 deaths each year from lightning strikes, 12 from rattlesnakes, 20 from domestic dogs, and 40 from bees.
TPWD is asking for people in this part of the state to report any observations of a bear in the area.
“The best thing people can do for this bear is secure their trash, bird feeders, and pet food, so the bear doesn’t become habituated to human foods,” Evans said. “The saying ‘A fed bear is a dead bear’ is very true. If it becomes habituated, it may have to be relocated or destroyed.” Just last week TPWD relocated a bear from Starr County to state lands along the Devils River. That bear had become very habituated to humans and was causing concern in the area.
Since black bears are a threatened species in Texas, they can not be legally hunted or harmed. While bears were once native to most of the state, breeding populations are now only found in the Trans-Pecos, primarily in the Big Bend.
If you see a bear, please report it to Texas Parks and Wildlife at (432) 837-2051.