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.
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 above 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.
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.
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.