LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - This week at the Texas State Forest Festival attendees are getting a rare chance to see some adorable black bears up close and personal.
Three black bears are starring in the great bear show at this year's Texas State forest festival.
The shows bear trainer Bob Steele said he enjoys getting to work with these animals.
"We periodically go out to fairs and sport shows to educate the public about bears, the do's and don not's when hiking and camping in bear country." Steele said.
According to Texas Black Bear Alliance chairman Nathan Garner the amount of bears decreased significantly in East Texas after World War II due to hunting and the destruction of their homes.
"Never before has there been an animal so magnificent and so intelligent that was exterminated by Texans and Texans have an opportunity to help restore that animal naturally." Garner said.
The ways to do this are by tolerating them, keeping a safe distance, and don't feed them. It's also illegal to kill or harm a bear.
"They are protected by state law as a threatened species." Garner said.
The bear population has actually been increasing with more bears moving in naturally from Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
"We're getting reporting's from people, land owners and hunter that they are seeing bears they are still rare but they're seeing them." Garner said.
If you an encounter a bear a bear you are encouraged to "make noise, back away slowly, don't make any eye contact and usually you'll be safe." Steele said.
Experts say that black bears have the opportunity to thrive again but we have to give them the chance.
"They're native, they're part of our natural and cultural history and they're trying to come back." Garner said.