Tag Archives: texas bears

Journey of a wayward bear

About 10 years ago, a man by the name of Al Weaver sent me a photo of a black bear he encountered while hog hunting with dogs.

The interesting part is that he was hog hunting near Bay City, TX in Matagorda County.

Bears inhabiting the Trans Pecos region near Big Bend National Park and slipping across the border from Louisiana and Arkansas into the Pineywoods are well documented but Bay City is far from these locations.

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The dogs they were hunting with scared the bear into a tree and it was left alone while the hunt continued. The photo of this bear is aboveĀ and as you can see it appears to be a a youngster.

It is most likely a male as young males will often travel far to start searching out mates but (male or female) how far did this one travel?

Lets say that bear entered Texas from Louisiana right at my home town of Orange coming across the Sabine River into the Blue Elbow Swamp which sits literally at the juncture of the Pineywoods and coastal marsh. This would also allow the closest access from Louisiana.

By car this is 155 miles which if you see the blue line would have the bear going through downtown Houston. That obviously did not happen. The straight path would lead it across the fifth largest bay system in the nation. That did not happen either.

The animal would have to at some point cross Interstate 10 or enter the wider spaces of the Sabine just south of Interstate 10 in Orange and maneuver through the coastal prairies, make its way around the Galveston Bay complex and down to Bay City.

black bear map 1

What if the bear hailed from the Trans Pecos area-say somewhere near Big Bend in the Lajitas area? That’s a 651 mile drive for us and a 472 mile straight shot by air (or bear) covering all kinds of territory along the way from cities to hunting leases to wildlife refuges to international borders perhaps.

black bear map 2 lagitas

Some might argue this was a captive bear that was released but that is very unlikely. Another possibility this is an undocumented bear that was born somewhere in the middle perhaps in the Hill Country where sightings have spiked in recent years or even in the western Pineywoods or maybe along the coast somewhere.

Did you know there were bear hunting seasons as recently as the 1980s along the Texas coast? In my personal collection I have a hunting regulation book from 1979 that had a bear season in Chambers County and have seen others from subsequent years.

Were there really still a few bears along the coast at that time? Any scientific information is scant but it is an intriguing thought.

No matter where this bear came from its origins are interesting as they defy commonly held beliefs about bears in Texas.

This should serve as a reminder that nature still has plenty of surprises left and that bears can show up unexpectedly-even where no bears are known to roam.

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Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

America’s Outback

Australia’s Outback is one of the wildest and biologically diverse chunks of habitat left on the planet.

It is also a place that has tracts of ground that have felt no human footprints at least in the modern era.

American has its own outback.

It is the Trans-Pecos region of Texas-the far western region of the state.

trans_pecos

The Trans-Peco is part of the Chihuauan Desert and features several small mountain ranges and has a county (Brewster) that is larger than the entire state of Connecticut.

It is home to some of the rarest and most elusive reptiles in North America and is home to the largest black bear population in Texas. Scattered bears also roam the eastern third of the state.

This region in my opinion is the most likely place to discover new wildlife in the United States and is also very like to be home to a small population of jaguars.

Jaguars have been proven to be crossing into New Mexico and Arizona frequently due to a concerted game camera study in both states. No such study exists in Texas.

Unlike Arizona and New Mexico most of Trans-Pecos Texas is privately owned. That means any large-scale study would have to be given the green light by landowners there. That could happen and two years ago I spoke with a research group that focuses on the great cats and they expressed interest in the topic but so far nothing is happening.

The truth is unless landowners themselves make reports almost no news gets out of the region.

An interesting report I am investigating is of a Mexican gray wolf sighted in a remote area Alpine.

The person who gave me the report was a fur trapper with more than 50 years experience in killing coyotes for cattle and sheep operations. In other words, he knows the difference between coyote and wolves.

When I interviewed him the animal he described sounded strikingly like a Mexican gray wolf and was in an area far away from any major human population.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the wild population of Mexican gray wolves in 2015 was 48 animals. It is not much a leap of faith to see one or more of these animals wandering into Texas.

wolf-radio-collar

In October 2000, a radio collared gray wolf from was shot and killed near Kirksville, MO nearly 600 miles away. A Mexican gray would not have to travel that far to end up near Alpine.

We will be forcing some effort on studies in this region and investigating the wildlife of America’s Outback.

Chester Moore, Jr.