A black bear was sited in Pecos County just outside the Fort Stockton city limits on June 20, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Since this is our first official bear encounter I would like to get as much information posted about bears as quickly as possible,” wrote Gaby Tamez in an e-mail to The Pioneer.
Tamez, the TPWD's wildlife district biologist for Pecos County, said that black bears have steadily recolonized the Big Bend region and other areas of west and southwest Texas since the 1990s, adding that the dry spring weather conditions have bears on the move in search in food leading to an increase in sightings in the area.
“There has been a flurry of bear activity in the Trans-Pecos recently,” said Michael Janis, TPWD's Trans-Pecos District Leader. “Reports of black bears wandering into Fort Davis, Alpine and Fort Stockton were received this past week on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, respectively.”
According to the TPWD, bears have an excellent sense of smell and much of their behavior is driven by their appetite. These natural characteristics can, however, become a problem when bears find an easy meal from a human-related source such as garbage, pet food or corn from a deer feeder. If over time a bear continually finds food around humans, it can become habituated, losing its fear of people and creating a potentially dangerous situation.
Residents in areas where bears have been spotted should secure containers potential bear attractants like garbage, pet food, bird and deer feeders.
Residents can also choose to invest in bear proof garbage dumpsters. Double-bagging garbage to reduce odors and keeping bags in a secure location until the morning of trash pickup are also encouraged practices.
Similarly, TPWD biologists recommend feeding pets inside or limiting pet food portions to an amount that can be consumed completely at each feeding.
Particularly challenging to manage is the Texas culture of attracting and feeding deer. Bears are sensitive to electricity however, so electric fences can be used to prevent bears from accessing feeders while still allowing deer to reach them because of their ability to jump the fence. Although an added cost, electric fencing can pay for itself in the prevention of lost feed and damage to a feeder.
Black bears are currently a protected species in Texas. If you see a bear, please stay away and do not attempt to feed it.
If you are in an urban or developed area, notify your local police or sheriff dispatch immediately and request that they contact the local Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden. Noting the bear’s size, direction, speed of travel and behavior, especially when it is feeding in town, will greatly aid authorities in determining how to respond.
“Bears and humans can co-exist well,” said Janis. “The key is preventing bears from accessing human-related food sources.”
TPWD is interested in documenting all sightings of bears and encourages reporting any sightings to a local biologist. Biologists can provide technical help on electric fence specifications and other ways to secure attractants.
Contact Gaby Tamez via e-mail to share information about a sighting: Gaby.Tamez@tpwd.texas.gov