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News Release
Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

Nov. 22, 2004

Public Meetings Set About East Texas Black Bear Plan

TYLER, Texas – A series of public meetings have been set for this month and next to explain the draft East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees and a team of more than 30 partners have been meeting and sharing information to develop the draft plan for more than a year. Wildlife biologists and others say that a plan is needed for several reasons.

"The black bear is a part of Texas’ natural heritage and forest ecology, the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list and is thus the focus of an ongoing restoration effort in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and black bears appear to be poised for a slow return in East Texas," said Nathan Garner, TPWD wildlife division regional director in Tyler. "Having a proactive plan to manage the situation is good natural resource management."

Black bears are already in East Texas to a limited extent, mainly solitary males wandering in from adjacent states. TPWD has documented 47 reliable bear sightings in East Texas since 1977, about two-thirds of those between 1991-2004. There is occupied bear habitat adjacent to East Texas in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, where wildlife agencies are experimenting with reintroducing bears in some areas.

The East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan is now in final draft form and is ready for public release. A team of private landowners, government agencies, timber companies, university researchers, conservation groups and others have been working on the plan since 2002. The plan is supported by more than 30 diverse groups from the public and private sector.

Two sub-species of black bear are found in Texas. The American black bear (Ursus americanus americanus), occurs mainly in the western and central parts of the state. The Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus), is the sub-species found historically in East Texas. The distinction is significant because the Louisiana black bear is on the federal threatened species list, while the American black bear in Texas is not. A casual observer would not be able to tell the two apart. Scientific analysis, such as DNA testing, is needed for sub-species verification. The Louisiana sub-species is the focus of the East Texas bear plan.

The management plan calls for various strategies to achieve specific goals. These include educating the public about black bears to minimize bear-people conflict potentials and allow reasonable human control of nuisance bears, and encouraging farm and forest management that provides bear habitat as part of a naturally diverse habitat system, to cite a few examples.

One suggestion in the plan is to conduct research to determine the survivability and reproductive capacity of re-introduced black bears in East Texas. The plan recommends first determining if there is public support for this research. If support exists, the plan recommends relocating several adult females with cubs in winter from out-of-state to a large, controlled forest acreage in deep East Texas. Bears in the study group would be fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their movements.

The public is invited to the following public meetings in southeast Texas to learn more about the draft East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan and to have the opportunity to ask questions and comment about the draft plan. The public may also request a copy of the plan or send comments in writing by e-mail to nathan.garner@tpwd.texas.gov or by regular mail to Nathan Garner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 11942 FM 848, Tyler, TX 75707.

All meetings start at 7 p.m.

TH 2004-11-22


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