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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The American black bear once occurred throughout the state of Texas..................... The were virtually all extirpated by the end of World War II because of unregulated hunting and habitat loss................... For nearly a century(1830-1925), the bears were hunted and killed for their meat, fat for cooking and hides for tanning, as well as for the sport of competitive hunting............... Their last stronghold of the bears in East Texas were in the swamps and thickets of the Big Thicket Region............. Little by little,, the bears have been making a slow comeback to this region and the rest of east Texas since 1984. ........... There was a resurgence of sightings in this region that followed a release of 161 black bears into neighboring Louisiana(1964-67)............ Texas Parks and Wildlife officials think most of the bears that have made their way to Texas from Louisiana are young males..........A Study is now underway to determine the breeding status of a potential permanent population in the Lone Star State with biologists already determining that there is 1 million East Texas acres that will easily support the bears return............

Chester Moore column: A look back at the return of bears to Texas

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Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2015 6:16 pm

There has been an increase in bear sightings in East Texas, the Hill Country along with an expanding population in the Trans-Pecos region. It has been going on for the last 10-15 years and today I thought it would be a good time to look back on their expansion.

 “The black bear is a part of Texas’ natural heritage and forest ecology, the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list and is thus the focus of an ongoing restoration effort in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and black bears appear to be poised for a slow return in East Texas,” said Nathan Garner, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) regional director in Tyler.
Garner was the first person I ever interviewed about bears in East Texas and he has been on top of the issue for many years.
A possible obstacle the bear’s return in the region is poaching, which still looms large in some areas. Shooting a Louisiana black bear (which all bears in East Texas are considered) is a state and a federal crime and since they come under auspices of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), fines could be as high as $25,000 and come with six months jail time.


Another potential problem is misidentification since bear and feral hogs can look similar at a distance especially when someone is not expecting to see a bear.    

That is why it is important for people entering bear country to get educated about these great animals. Their comeback is happening right now. A few years ago I helped create black bear educational posters that were distributed as digital downloads to hundreds of individuals, teachers, scout leaders and church groups. If you would like one, email me at and I will get you a copy.

Bear sightings were giving people in the Texas Hill Country a shock in 2011 during the prolonged drought. So much so they sent out a press release noting that wildlife biologists were advising hunters, ranchers and rural residents that black bears appear to be roaming longer distances and may approach people or houses in search of food and water because of the drought.

“If conditions remain dry, people could see more bears, said Mike Krueger, district leader of the Edwards Plateau Wildlife District for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


East Texas Black Bear Task Force meets in Lufkin to discuss future bear population

By Caleb Beames
The East Texas Bear Task Force held their winter meeting Thursday at the Ellen Trout Zoo. The meeting was to discuss the progress of a future Black Bear population in East Texas.

"The Louisiana Black Bear is native to East Texas," task force Chairman Nathan Gardner said. "East Texas is the perfect spot for the bears to be." 

Gardner told the crowd that East Texas was home to the bears but after World War II researchers started to notice a decline. 
"They disappeared due to over hunting and destruction of their habitat," Gardner said.

Gardner also said there is plenty of room in East Texas for the bears to have a livable area.

"We have nearly a million acres across East Texas that have good bear habitat," Gardner said.
The Louisiana Black Bear is native to environments found along the Angelina, Neches and Sabine Rivers. The population has dwindled in Texas but researchers claim other states nearby are experiencing growth.

"Louisiana has a lot of bears," Gardner said. "So does Arkansas and Oklahoma."

Gardner told the crowd that 30 years ago, Oklahoma did not have any bears and now the state has between 400-600 bears. 

The task force uses research from SFA Professor Christopher Comer. Comer has been studying to find out the best places for the bears to re-populate. Comer believes the bears and humans can co-exist.

"There are rather large in states that are densely populated like Pennsylvania, New York State, New Jersey where they have hundreds of bears living in close proximity to people," Comer said

Comer said it is only a matter of time until the bears return to East Texas.
They do eventually, naturally re-colonize these areas but it will take a lot of time," Comer said.

Sarah Fuller said the bears do get a bad reputation. 

"These are not Grizzly Bears," Fuller said. "These bears like to hand out and hide in the woods. They are omnivores but mostly eat plants."  

Early 20th century Black Bear killed in Teas

Fuller also said the re-introduction of black bears into East Texas will be a long process. 

"It is a long way away because the black bears are returning naturally, so it is going to take some time," Fuller said. "We are in this for the long haul. This is likely a multi-generational effort."

one of the last Black Bears killed in Texas-mid 1960's

Ben Lily, a Big Thicket Black Bear Hunter




  • Start Info
    Founded on December 1, 2005
  • Short Description
    The ETBBTF supports the
  • restoration of the black bear in its historic range of 
  • east Texas through education,
  •  research, and habitat management.
  • Company Overview
    Black bears (Ursus americanus)
  •  are a part of the natural heritage of Texas and were
  •  historically widely distributed
  •  throughout... See More
  • General Information
    We invite Texans - landowners, 
  • educators, students, wildlife biologists, law enforcement
  •  officials, 
  • conservationists, and al... See More
  • Mission
    The ETBBTF will strive

  • to accomplish its mission of restoring Texas' native black bear 
  • population through partnerships among... See More
  • Phone
    903-566-1626 ext 209

For more information on the group's effort, click here.


Historical accounts of Black Bear 
Hunting in the Big Thicket of East 
Texas 1830-1925

The Big Thicket Bear 

Hunters Club of Kountze

“They Dream Of Killing the Bears”

By W. T. Block

The old bear hunters of Hardin County had two things
in common - they hunted bears until their youth
gave way to old age, and they became windy raconteurs,
 talking each other to death about the big bear that
got away. In fact around 1925, a half dozen or so
old bear hunters met each Saturday morning under
 the big beech tree beside the Nona-Fletcher sawmill
 office in Kountze. They played “42” dominoes and
 swapped bear-hunting yarns for three hours before
 dozing off to sleep and snoring in their hide bottom chairs.

Old John Kilrain, known locally as “Old Kil,” often
 passed by the mill office, exercising his dogs,
while the bear hunters were playing dominoes. Kilrain,
 an old Negro, had been born a slave in 1864 before
 emancipation, and had led many of the bear hunts
after 1890, his dogs always sticking to a bear’s trail
until the latter was cornered. Kil always had a little
ditty, which he sang as he passed the dozing bear
 hunters, as follows:
“The old
in the
And the old
men doze
 in their chairs,
The old guns
 hang there
While they dream
 about killing
 the bears.”1

Strangely almost
 nothing was
 written about
hunting in Southeast
 Texas prior
 to the Civil War
although an occasional
tale about
black panthers was
 published. About 1830
James Barnes,
 the pioneer
patriarch of that family
in Northwest
 County, killed
14 panthers in one day,
winning for him
 his lifetime
 appellation of “Panther Barnes”
among his
friends. However,
 bear-hunting stories were
principally non-existent
 prior to the 1870s.

In 1878 an article noted that some Southeast Texans made
almost a profession of slaying ‘Old Bruin’ if he came
 within rifle range. Yet it was well-known that those earliest
 bear hunters ate every bear that they killed, killing for
sport being wholly unknown to them. Galveston Weekly
News reported in 1878 that:  “Mr. A. Stephenson, the old
bear hunter of Southeast Texas, killed 33 bears last season,
and so far this season, has killed 49 bears...”2

A story about the Sour Lake Hotel in 1878 reported that
 the surrounding forests were filled with bears, panthers,
 deer, and bobcats. A Galveston Daily News reporter
 noted that while he was there, two hunters and their
dog were trailing a bear near the hotel, when suddenly
old bruin turned on them, killed one man and the dog
 before the reporter added:3

“...The other man came up and rushed after
Old Bruin with his knife. Bruin rose upon his
 hind legs, gave him a hug, and then crushed
 his skull in his mouth like an egg shell...
when a man named Steele arrived and
shot the bear dead...”
“The two men killed by the bear were
named Scott - father and son. The senior,
 old John Scott was a chief of the Alabama
 Indians living in that country...”

Another story was labeled “The Hunter’s
 Elysium,” and first appeared in the Liberty
 Vindicator in 1889. Judge Hightower and his
 friends were hunting bears in the Big Thicket
when suddenly they heard a yelp from Old
Statler, the judge’s favorite hunting dog. The
 bear found an opening in the jungle, where he
 chose to stand and fight off the dogs.
Old Bruin, fighting fiercely with every claw
 and fang he could muster, soon killed Old
 Statler and was seen attacking another dog
 when Hightower, his hunting knife drawn,
 jumped up on the bear’s back. The judge
stabbed the bear twice in the animal’s heart
 before Old Bruin sank slowly to the ground.
 Hightower had saved the rest of his dogs,
 while his companions stood by too terror-
stricken to move.4

The passing of the black bears from the
 Big Thicket marked the passage of an era,
 leaving the surviving bear hunters with
 nothing to do except doze in the shade
of the beech tree and dream about killing
 the bears that were about extinct. And
now the Big Thicket bear hunters are as
extinct as the Big Thicket bears they
once hunted. Luckily the black bears are
 far from extinct elsewhere in the United
 States and perhaps some day a few of
them will be released once more to restock
 the area. At present it is sad there are none
 left to browse on the mayhaws in the
 baygalls or gather the acorn mast left in
 the creek bottoms.
1 “Pioneer Hunter Recalls Olden

Days,” Beaumont Enterprise, April 6

, 1924.
2 Galveston Weekly News, Jan. 28,

3 N. A. Taylor, “More About

Sour Lake,” Galveston Weekly

News, March 15, 1878.
4 Lois W. Parker, “Legends

of the Big Thicket,” Texas

Gulf Historical and Biographical

Record, X, Nr. 1 (Nov. 1974), 30-40.

Louisiana Black Bear History

The Louisiana black bear once ranged throughout LA
and parts of MS, AR, and TX. The black bear was
 common at the time of early colonization, serving
 as food both for Indians and white settlers. More
 than 80 percent of prime Louisiana black bear
 habitat in the Mississippi River floodplain had
 been lost by the early 1990’s primarily due to
 clearing land for agriculture.  Quality of the
remaining habitat has been reduced by
fragmentation and human activities.
 An 1890 record shows 17 parishes containing
 bears, all of them in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya
region.   It was reported that the most extensive
 areas of bottomland hardwoods in the state have
 “at least a few bears”, with the greatest number
 found in the denser woodlands along the Tensas
, Red, Black, and Atchafalaya Rivers.  In the late
 1950s, bears occupied habitat in the Tensas-
Madison area in northeast Louisiana and in the
lower fringes of the Atchafalaya Basin.  The bear
 population in Louisiana at this time was reported
 as “sparse” with an estimated 80 to 120 bears.
 Although there were few bears in the state,
 hunting was still permitted.  It was believed
 that if bear populations increased significantly,
 predation and crop damage would become

Black bear could be legally hunted in parts of 
Louisiana through the late-1980s, but there 
was little interest due to low bear numbers
 and hunts were uncommon.  One of the last
 organized bear hunts in Louisiana occurred 
December 15, 1955.  During this hunt, 5 bears 
were harvested in the Lake Providence area. 
 It was recommended to the Wildlife Commissio
n that the bear season be closed. Bear hunting 
was closed the following season and remained
 closed until 1961.  The season was opened
 again from 1962-1965 with hunting permitted
 only in northeast Louisiana and in the coastal
 parishes.  The hunting season was again 
closed from 1966 to 1974.  It was reopened
 in 1975-1987 with hunting restricted to the 
Atchafalaya Basin.  The Louisiana bear hunting
 season has remained closed since 1988. 
From 1964 through 1967, 161 black bears
 were live-trapped in Cook County, Minnesota
 and released in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya
 River bottoms of Louisiana in an effort to restock
 black bear to the state.  By 1968 there was 
evidence that the translocated bears were 
reproducing.  However, most of the relocated
 bears were killed on roads, as nuisance
 animals, or during recapture.  

Perhaps 400 to 600 bears are believed to roam
Louisiana as of 2015

-Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries:source

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