Plan in Progress to Bring Back Black Bears

The Louisiana black bear is considered an endangered species. Only 47 of them have been spotted in East Texas since 1977.

That number could change drastically if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has its way. The department, along with more than 30 other agencies, started working on a plan more than a year ago to bring black bears back to East Texas.

Ellen Trout Zoo director Gordon Henley says, "I think one of the downfalls to reintroduction programs are where there are animal-people conflicts. I think people are smart enough on both sides of the issue to come up with solutions and ways of bringing these animals back to minimize that conflict."

Some hunters say the plan is a good idea, and reintroducing the black bear to this area won't cause a problem for them or their prey.

"Like with anything, snakes or otherwise, you've got to use good judgment and caution, but I don't feel like there would be any danger to the hunting population at all," Ben Bartlett says.

Hunting and owning black bears as pets is illegal. The bears can be dangerous, but they're usually pretty quiet and don't cause any trouble.

Henley says, "They don't seek people out. They're not man-eaters. They're mostly shy and inoffensive animals."

The East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan is now in its final draft and ready for public release. To get a copy of the plan, contact Nathan Garner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 11942 FM 848, Tyler, TX 75707.