Mary Tutwiler

Louisiana black bears expanding habitat into Texas

by Mary Tutwiler

It’s been 16 years since the Lousiana black bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In the early 1990s, the federal government attempted to designate critical habitat for the bear in Louisiana. Public hearings erupted with growls from landowners and politicians who claimed that their rights would be curtailed if permits for land use such as oil and gas exploration or timber harvest hinged on bear habitat. The project was put in hibernation until this spring, when U.S. Fish and Wildlife issued preliminary maps of 1.3 million acres of critical habitat in Louisiana.

While Louisiana landowners again huddle to attempt to scuttle the new regulations, the black bears, protected in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, seem to be expanding territory on their own. The Dallas Morning News reports bear sightings in Texas Parks and Wildlife’s White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area, a 25,000-acre hardwood bottom on the Sulphur River and White Oak Creek. “Bear sightings in East Texas started picking up in the late 1990s,”  TP&W biologist Ricky Maxey told the DMN. “Some years, we only get two or three reports. Other years we get 10 or more.”