Biologists advise Trans Pecos residents to stay Bear Aware amid recent sightings

ALPINE As occasional bear sightings continue to crop up in Brewster, Presidio, and Jeff Davis counties, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department encourages residents to practice bear safety as the likelihood of spotting a bear in populated areas increases. Black bears are native to Texas and are a part of our natural heritage and the Texas ecosystem.

As bears prepare for winter, it’s not uncommon for bears to begin displaying signs of excessive hunger. In these instances, bears will often be attracted to and search for early accessible food sources like pet food, wildlife feeders, and livestock feed, a news release said.

To reduce the likelihood of bear encounters near rural communities or within city limits in the Tri-county-area, residents should follow simple practices to prevent black bear habituation to anthropogenic food sources.

TPWD biologists recommend feeding pets inside or limiting pet food portions to an amount that can be consumed completely at each feeding, locking up all livestock feed, and bringing bird feeders inside at night. Bear proof garbage dumpsters are also a great option that many communities in the western U.S. have deployed to reduce or prevent bear encounters. Keeping trash bags in a secure location until the morning of trash pickup are also encouraged practices. More information can be found on the Bear Safety page of the TPWD website.

Preventing habituation by limiting access to perceived food sources is the best way to keep bears from becoming a nuisance or eventual safety risk. Neighborhoods should work together and promote community-wide efforts to proactively secure any attractants.

In most instances, bears are not a danger to humans, the release said. There have been fewer than 20 fatal bear attacks in 120 years in the lower 48 states. Should a resident encounter a black bear, biologists say to immediately deploy aversive conditioning measures by creating loud noises (shout, handclap, air horns, set off car alarm, sirens, or bang pots and pans) to startle the bear if you can do so from a safe distance. In all cases, humans should stay away from the bear and not attempt to feed it.

Black bears are currently a protected species in Texas. If you are in an urban or developed area, and a bear exhibits aggressive behavior toward humans or causes property damage, notify your local police or sheriff dispatch immediately and request that they contact the local TPWD biologist or 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. Not all calls regarding bears need further investigation if the bear is not displaying aggressive or threatening behavior. In all instances, staying away from the bear and keeping pets secured indoors and away from the animal will facilitate the overall best outcome, the release said.