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If you judge by recent reported sightings, the black bear is making a significant comeback in Texas. However, public interest in an animal often has a way of fueling additional sightings, especially during poor visibility conditions. This is true not only with bears, but many other elusive and intriguing animals, such as mountain lions or sharks. In other words, some of the bear reports could be false.

From the Big Bend to Austin, bear sightings have surprised biologists and the public alike. On the other hand, at least one sighting per year of black bears in the Hill Country is not uncommon. These individuals may be truly wild animals looking for suitable habitat or mates, but it is entirely possible that they are released or escaped captive animals. In any case, the chances of a recently established population of black bears in the Hill Country are remote. Central Texans are probably seeing wandering individuals from farther west.

In East Texas, the expanding black bear population of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma is resulting in the return of black bears to the region, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Black bears are not as dangerous as some people think. For one thing, most of their diet is vegetation, so they may pose less of a threat to livestock than some other predators. And like most animals, they will seldom approach people.

The black bear, Ursus americanus, is on the state endangered species list. TPWD biologists encourage people to report recent bear sightings to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Research is currently under way by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine the status of black bears in Texas. 


— Sources: Texas Parks & Wildlife, 2010, and Texas A&M Forest Service, 2013.