Black Bears in the Big Thicket

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February 24, 2012 Science Cafe update about Black Bears in the Big Thicket

Submitted by:
Mary C. Johnston, BTA President 
mathicket@aol.com 
757-288-0190

Black bear, taken by Mike Bender, USFW

“Black Bears in the Big Thicket” was the topic of a Science Café hosted at the Logon Café on February 24th.  Approximately 80 people attended. Big Thicket National Preserve Ranger Mary Kay Manning shared information on bears and compared local efforts with those at Big Bend National Park, which has a population of about 20 to 25 bears.  Ranger Manning presented a PowerPoint program on black bear ecology and information on ongoing conservation strategies, and shared a bear skull model and authentic bear fur and claws for visitors to handle.

The Black Bear Conservation Coalition works to promote the restoration of the Louisiana black bear in its historic range, through education, research and habitat management.  The future of this native depends on protection of vital habitat and public education and awareness programs.  To learn more about black bears and conservation efforts, go to their website at www.bbcc.org. The East Texas Black Bear Task Force, in partnership with the Houston Zoo, offers the “Educators Guide to Black Bears of East Texas”, an excellent source of activities for teachers, parents, and other youth leaders to teach kids about black bears.  It is available to download at http://www.bbcc.org/cirriculumtexas/default.aspx 

 No bears have been introduced into East Texas, and none are believed to live here year-round. However, as their populations grow in surrounding states, it is anticipated that some may migrate into this region, particularly into bottomland hardwood forests.  Big Thicket National Preserve protects a great amount of this type of preferred bear habitat, along numerous waterways, which provide natural travel corridors for bears. It is anticipated that if bears did return to this area, they would most likely be found in these hardwood forests near water. Quite a few bear sightings have been documented in north Texas.  Black bears are listed as a threatened species in Texas, and killing one may result in a $10,000 fine.

The free workshop was jointly sponsored by the Big Thicket Association and the Big Thicket National Preserve.

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