Lake Texoma

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Are Black Bears Roaming Texomaland?




Yes, black bears are scouting for habitats in Texomaland! There was one black bear harvest in Bryan County, Oklahoma, in October 2020. Historically, four of the 16 subspecies of black bears found their hunting and breeding grounds in Texas. Black bears were indigenous to Texas until hunters had almost wiped them out by the 1940s. This is not surprising since black bears once roamed Alaska, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

Two species are native to Texas, the Louisiana black bear in east Texas, and the American black bear in north central Texas. Unregulated hunting of the black bear began in Texas when the state belonged to Spain. At first, the fur traders paid the Native Americans for hides, and then they began trapping the bears and other valuable hide species themselves.

In Texomaland, fur traders and trappers set up posts on the north side of the Red River in Oklahoma, and on the Louisiana side of the border with Texas. Trappers who ventured into Texas while it belonged to Spain and then Mexico faced death or prison if caught. Spain owned Texas from 1690 to 1821. By the late 1800s, black bears only traveled along the Louisiana border and west across the Houston area to Victoria County, a small region from Travis to Edwards Counties, and a large chunk of the Trans-Pecos/Big Bend region.

When oil boomed as king and timber harvesting increased over many areas of Texas, and no black bear hunting regulations existed, by the early 1900s, black bears were rare. By the 1940s, bears only existed in small pockets of Big Bend. With the loss of habitat, property fragmentation, and overhunting, black bears kept themselves in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Even so, their populations declined all over the U.S. (1, 2)

Young Male Black Bears in Texomaland

Black Bears are making a comeback and young black males are looking for females right here in Texomaland thanks to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The TPWD biology department keeps records of and confirms black bear sightings. In Texomaland, in Bells, in Grayson County, the TPWD confirmed a black bear sighting in 2018, and another one in Pottsboro in 2020. Hunters bagged a black bear in Bryan County, Oklahoma, in October 2020.

Texomaland is far from being a black bear breeding ground, and sightings are extremely rare. When the bears come into Texas from Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma, and Arkansas, they follow the Red River towards the west. Officials attribute the two recent sightings in Grayson County to being young males. Transient males are looking for a new home range and a mate. Mother bears will keep young female offspring with them, but they will not tolerate their male babies after about two years of age. The young males find a good bear habitat in Texomaland, but when they don’t find a mate, they go back to where they came from.

What Does a Black Bear Look Like?

Our black bears in Texomaland are on the smaller side of the species. Here, adults have stocky bodies and are usually five to six feet long with a shoulder height of two to three feet. Males are larger than females. They weigh from 200 to 300 pounds. A bear’s long, coarse fur coat varies in color from black to cinnamon brown. Their front claws are typically longer than their hind claws. Black bears can run up to 35 mph even though their stocky bodies and movements make them appear to be slow.-moving creatures. These bears are generally harmless, but people need to take precautions. They can attack humans when provoked. 

How to Report a Bear Sighting

TPWD is interested in documenting all sightings of bears and encourages reporting any sightings to a local biologist. Research is currently underway by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine the status of black bears in Texas. Residents can find a local biologist and more information about bears and bear safety on the TPWD website. Residents are also encouraged to call the east Texas Region Office at 903-566-1626 extension 209.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/technical_guidance/biologists/ (3)

Bear Precautions

Black Bears are not as dangerous as some people think. Their primary diet is vegetation. They are less threatening to livestock than other predators. They rarely approach people. Bears can pack on 100 pounds in the fall and can spend 20 hours a day feeding in order to make it through their winter hibernation periods. They eat mostly vegetation, and they love fattening nuts. They also eat berries, plus less frequently, amphibians, birds, carrion (dead animals), small mammals, and reptiles. Most of the protein in their diet comes from eating ants, beetles, termites, and wasps. (4)

Keeping Bears Away From Properties and Campsites

• Make trash cans inaccessible. Bring them inside at night or buy a bear-resistant trash can or an enclosure for the container.
• Enclose your compost pile. Open compost piles, especially those that include kitchen scraps, are an irresistible treat in bear country. Burying compost won’t work because bears will easily find and dig it up.
• Recycle wisely. If you store recyclables outside, use enclosed bins. (Persistent bears will break into even ruggedly built bins.)
• Keep your barbecue grill clean and as free of drippings as possible. Move the grill away from your house when you aren’t using it, and clean it regularly with ammonia or bleach.
• Rethink your bird feeders. In the summer, birds can make do with naturally available foods. If you do set up feeders, install them away from your house.

https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/what-do-about-black-bears

From the U.S. National Park Service

• Carry Bear Pepper Spray

• Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.

• Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.

• Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won't be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

• Pick up small children immediately.

• Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.

• Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).

• Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.

• Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.

• If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.

• Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

• Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

• Black Bears Attacks: If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear's face and muzzle.

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bears/safety.htm#:~:text=If%20the%20bear%20is%20stationary,racehorse%20both%20uphill%20and%20down.

Black Bear Regulations

Oklahoma

It is legal to hunt bears in Oklahoma in permitted areas. In the region near Texomaland in Oklahoma, you can only harvest bears in Atoka, Bryan, McIntosh, and Pittsburg counties east of U.S. Highway 69. Archery season is from: Oct. 1 to Oct. 18, and muzzleloading season is from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1. (5)

Texas

From TDWP: The black bear is a protected and rare species in the state of Texas. Black bear conservation efforts in bordering states over the last 20 years have been extremely successful in restoring this iconic species within its historic range. It is against the law to hunt, harass, or kill them. (6)

Pictures

Black Bear, courtesy TPWD

Sources

(1) https://texasblackbear.weebly.com/history-in-texas.html
(2) Oklahoma Game Warden Cody Jones
(3) https://www.kltv.com/2020/06/30/black-bear-sightings-increase-east-texas/#:~:text=Residents%20can%20find%20a%20local,%2D566%2D1626%20extension%20209

https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/technical_guidance/biologists/
(4) https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/blackbear/

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bears/safety.htm#:~:text=If%20the%20bear%20is%20stationary,racehorse%20both%20uphill%20and%20down
(5) 
http://www.eregulations.com/oklahoma/hunting/bear-hunting-seasons/
(6) https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/resources/bear_safety/#:~:text=While%20Texas%20offers%20state%20protected,not%20actively%20manage%20for%20bears




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Lake Texoma Weather Forecast

Wednesday

Sunny

Hi: 64

Wednesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 39

Thursday

Chance Rain Showers

Hi: 52

Thursday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 40

Friday

Mostly Cloudy

Hi: 54

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Saturday

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Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 2/24: 614.23 (-2.77)



Lake Texoma

Fishing Report from TPWD (Feb. 24)

FAIR. Water lightly stained; 44 degrees; 2.65 low. Striped bass are fair on swimbaits and live shad. White bass are fair on slabs and jigging spoons. Largemouth bass are slow fishing plastic worms, crankbaits, jerk baits, and flutter spoons in 15-30’. Crappie are fair on minnows and white jigs near deep boathouses, timber, and brush piles in 18-32’. Catfish are slow on punch bait.

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