Larry Moree, of the Beaver Creek subdivision north of Paris, has been having problems with feral hogs tearing up his yard. He decided to put out a game camera to document the animals’ activities. Imagine his surprise when his camera recently caught an image of a black bear.
“The image was recorded about 4 a.m. on May 14,” said the retired law enforcement officer and justice of the peace. “I hadn’t checked the camera for several days because of the rain. When I got the card out of the camera and put it in my computer and saw the image, I called my wife over and she thought I was playing tricks on her.”
Moree said he went back out to the spot to look around and found paw prints, so he took pictures of them with the camera on his phone and called the local game warden.
Bryan Callihan, long-time Texas Parks & Wildlife game warden for Lamar County, said he had seen the image Moree’s camera took and confirmed the animal is a black bear, most likely an ursus americanus, and probably a young male looking to establish its own home range after being displaced by its mother in the wake of the birth of new cubs.
According to information from TP&W, black bears are on the rise in northeast Texas, an area they historically inhabited. The last native bear in East Texas was killed in the late 1950s and sightings of the animal were rare for years afterward. In the mid-1960s, Louisiana released 161 black bears back into the wilderness in an effort to boost populations of the animal in the state. Arkansas also has been engaged in reintroducing bears to the forested, mountainous areas of the state. Rising populations have forced young males to range further into neighboring areas.
Since 1977, TP&W has documented black bear sightings in 22 counties in east and northeast Texas, including Bowie, Red River, Lamar and Fannin counties. In 1998, a number of sightings were reported in Lamar County. In 2016, sightings of young male bears were documented in Bowie and Red River counties.
“The warden told me it was probably a young male looking for territory and traveling through from Oklahoma or Arkansas,” Moree said. “He said it was most likely coming in from Red River County to the east of us. The tracks I found came from the east and rounded the house. It knocked over a bird feeder in the yard about 10 yards from the house.”
Moree called attention to another recent report of a bear sighting in Lamar County.
“Someone local posted a video of a bear running down a road in front of a vehicle,” he said. “It’s on Facebook and it says the video was taken on CR 33200 near Sumner.”
Information taken from Facebook indicates the video was posted the same day Moree’s camera snapped the image of the bear. Sumner is about 12 miles from Beaver Creek.
Callihan said he has seen the video Moree described.
“Bears can easily travel 6 to 8 miles a day, with no problems,” he added. “It might be the same bear in both sightings. If it is the same bear, it seems to be moving generally in an east to west direction. I have also seen bear tracks on the other side of Highway 271 to the northeast of Beaver Creek. Bears travel along natural cover, along creek bottoms and wooded areas. Pine Creek (which connects Lake Crook with the Red River) is less than two miles from the subdivision.”
Callihan said black bears are usually not aggressive to humans, unless the animal in question is a female with cubs.
“Black bears are primarily vegetarians, it’s a priority for them,” he said. “They are generally not predators, not meat eaters. Keep your distance, though, especially if you see bear cubs. If you see one, it will probably be more scared of you than you are of it. Make a lot of noise, hold your arms up to make yourself look bigger.”
The game warden stressed that black bears are a protected species in Texas and shooting a black bear can mean an expensive fine plus the cost of restitution to the state for the loss of the animal.
“This is especially important for hunters,” he added. “Make sure before you pull the trigger that it is a feral hog, not a bear. They can be easily confused one for the other.”
Moree said his game camera has captured images of hogs on his property, taken in the same spot as the one of the bear.
“I’ve lived in Lamar County for about 60 years, and I’ve seen a lot of critters in my time,” the homeowner said. “About five or six years ago, I saw something I wasn’t sure about. After seeing this video, I’m sure it was a bear I saw back then.”