By Otha Barham
Otha Barham ©
Word came in Monday about a bear sighting last weekend on Highway 39 north of Daleville. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) officials went to the location and found plenty of tracks.
Within a short time period another bear was spotted north of Lauderdale near Highway 45. Searches there produced no tracks or other sign. “Bears are showing up in increased numbers across the state,” said MDWFP state bear specialist Brad Young. “Females are showing up with cubs,” he continued, which indicates growing reproduction within state borders.
Outdoors enthusiasts are excited about Mississippi’s growing black bear population. Those who understand black bears know they are almost completely harmless and damage to property is practically non-existent. Less informed citizens might wrongly confuse black bear characteristics and behavior with that of brown or grizzly bears. These larger bears of northern climes can be dangerous to humans, unlike the usually nocturnal and shy black bears.
The term brown bear refers to a species, not to its color necessarily. Some “brown” bears may be blond in color, just as some “black” bears are brown in color. No brown or grizzly bears exist anywhere near Mississippi.
There are large penalties associated with harming a bear in Mississippi. Sometimes bears search for easy meals near garbage dumps or even residences where food is handy to them. Sightings or incidences of feeding on domestic items should be reported immediately to local Conservation Officers. The MDWFP needs information on the location of bears and officers can advise or assist in keeping bears away from homes or places of human activity.
I for one am happy to share some outdoor space with the marvelous black bears; space that we have slowly taken away from them and many other wild animals.