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Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov [TH]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Jan. 18, 2005

Northeast Texas Public Meetings Set About Black Bear Plan

TYLER, Texas – More public meetings have been set for this month and next to explain the draft East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan. This follows the first meeting series held recently in southeast Texas.

“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.

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), is found 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 draft management plan includes 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.

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 may also request a hard copy of the plan or send comments 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. Anyone may view the draft plan on the TPWD Web site.

The public is invited to the following public meetings 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.

All meetings start at 7 p.m.

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