Talkin' Outdoors

Last week’s column about Ruston’s bear created quite a stir around the area. All that was needed to add more fuel to the fire was news of yet another bear on the loose in the area.

This is exactly what happened as my call Sunday from Bill Sanderson, Director of Ruston Animal Control Sunday revealing a bear spotted crossing a road north of Simsboro, then showing up on Judge Danny Tatum’s security camera in his carport in Melrose subdivision and later spotted crossing Highway 33 north of Lincoln Parish Park later in the day.

All this “bear” news prompted a call for the “bare” facts to Maria Davidson who is manager of the Large Carnivore Program for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“The sighting of bears this time of year usually involves young male bears that have a tendency of wandering around after leaving their mothers. All the good habitat has been taken by mature male bears so younger bears continue to move on and disperse sometimes far outside their normal range. This is what you’re likely seeing now in the Ruston area,” said Davidson.

“As these young male bears mature, they typically return to their home range or at least to an area that already has a core population of bears; they want to be around female bears. We have a stable and increasing bear population out of the Tensas population for sure and on top of that, we’re seeing some range expansion. Whereas the core range continues to be centered around the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, range expansion both east, west and north is occurring,” she said.

Comments and questions from curious and concerned area residents have raised questions regarding personal safety around bears.

“We have never seen any type of aggressive behavior around bears in Louisiana but you still have to treat them with the respect they deserve. The best thing anybody can do is prevent a bear from hanging around your house to begin with. Things like having food sources available to them, pet food left on the porch and garbage that is not secured. Also if you live in an area where bears are common, it’s not a good idea to leave bird seed out. As long as they’re not hanging around your property, you shouldn’t have any problems,” Davidson said.

A popular belief that if a female bear has cubs and people get too close, she will defend them. Davidson noted that she does a lot of work with females with cubs and find they’re not terribly aggressive. However, she noted, she will aggressively defend her cubs against dogs.

Another question that has come up is a recent news report of efforts of some groups to place black bears back on the endangered list.

“Our department supports the decision of the National Wildlife Service to remove the bears from the endangered list believing that the decision was based on the best available science and that recovery goals have been met. We’re continuing to work with the Service on monitoring that available habitat continues to be compatible with the population increase. It remains to be seen if we have a sustainable population yet to suggest a limited hunting season on bears. We’re continuing to monitor the situation at this time,” she said.

For more information on black bears, there is a website that covers the “do’s and don’ts” when you have bears in your area. Go to www.bearwise.org for the latest information.