AUSTIN — With winter quickly approaching, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) encourages residents in the western, southwestern and northeastern portions of Texas to practice appropriate safety measures and report bear sightings.
Black bears are native to Texas, a part of the state’s natural heritage and ecosystem. They are guided by an excellent sense of smell, and their behavior is driven largely by appetite. Fall provides their last opportunity to feast before denning up for the winter.
These natural characteristics become a problem when they find easy meals from humans, such as garbage, pet food or corn from a deer feeder. If a bear continually finds food around humans, it can become habituated, losing its fear of people and creating a potentially dangerous situation.
Big Bend National Park cited increased bear activity as the reason to close two trails in August until the bears moved along to better feeding grounds this fall.
Sara Allen Colando, Brewster County Commissioner, recently posted a photo of a bear — dubbed a “new Terlingua Ghost Town resident” — tearing up the trash behind a local barbecue.
“We need bear-proof dumpsters,” she urged residents. “Contact your disposal company if there are bears in your area.” Colando took her own advice and had her regular dumpster replaced with a bear-resistant unit.
Bear-proof garbage containers are a great option that many communities have deployed to reduce bear encounters. TPWD biologists encourage keeping trash bags in a secure location until the morning of trash pickup and feeding pets inside or limiting pet-food portions to an amount that can be consumed completely at each feeding.
More information can be found on the TPWD website, including how to secure deer feeders or apiaries with electric fence and the use of “unwelcome mats.” Unwelcome mats, made from rough wood and nails or brads, can be placed under windows, at doors and fence openings and around outdoor freezers and refrigerators to discourage bears without causing serious injury.
Texas offers this non-game animal state protected status as a threatened species, so it is against the law to hunt, harass or kill them.