Black bear sightings in Arkansas, biologists say they’re not new to the natural state

Local News

(06/19/19) In the past few months, American Black Bears have been sighted in Southeast Arkansas in more places besides the woods. 

A video captured by a resident last month shows two bears walking through a wooded area in South Crossett. There have been several reports of bear sightings in the town but the bears have also made their way to El Dorado. 

“The bear casually just made its way to the ball fields and the last sighting was at the walking trails near 19th street,” Lieutenant Christopher Lutman said. 

The El Dorado Police Department received numerous calls of the bears rummaging through dumpsters, even making their way to the Wal Mart on Northwest Avenue.

“This is not an uncommon thing to see in the city,” he said. “We’re starting to see more of that in some of these urban areas,” he said.

Many residents in Ashley and Union County say the bears just won’t go away but what many don’t know is that they’ve been around southern Arkansas for decades.

According to a publication written by Arkansas Wildlife Biologists, black bears occurrence in Arkansas dates back to the 1850’s. Historically, the unofficial motto for Arkansas was “The Bear State”.

In the mid 1900’s black bears weren’t as prominent. According to biologists, there were less than 50 bears in the 1930’s. Years later, the Arkansas Game and Fish decided to restore the black bear population in Arkansas, bringing a great number back to the southern region.

Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge Biologist, Nick Wirwa, says the bears are completely harmless.

“They tend to themselves,” Wirwa said. “They really don’t want human action.”

Neither do they want to feed off of human flesh. They’re looking for food but more so food from dumpsters. Pet food and corn feeders from hunting clubs are also attractive to these creatures.

“They’re curious just like any other animal,” Wirwa said.”They’re curious to food.”

Their curiosity has led them to neighborhoods and even areas within city limits. Residents are seeing an increased number of these bears roaming around because they have also been affected by the record-breaking flooding Arkansas has seen in the past month. 

When their natural habitat is covered in flooded waters, they have no choice but to flock to higher ground.

“When the river goes back down, the bears move back into the bottom land areas,” Wirwa said.

The bears will eventually return to their natural homelands but until then they may continue to meander around urban areas. Biologists suggest staying away from the bears. Most importantly, do not provoke them. They’re just like any other animal and should be treated as such.

“As we see the black bear population increase, it’s just like anything else when we get to see deer or any other wildlife,” Wirwa said. “It just becomes a part of our daily lives.”

To help minimize the bears from getting into your things, keep a lid on all containers that may attract them. If you do sight a bear and feel threatened, contact your local Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or 911.

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