Are There Bears in the Texas Hill Country and Should You Be Worried?

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Tony Maples Photography


Recently, a black bear was sighted in a neighborhood between New Braunfels and Spring Branch. The alleged black bear, weighing as much as 350 lbs., ran in front of a vehicle in the early morning hours. This rare sighting begs the question: Just how many black bears are in the Texas Hill Country and how much of a threat are they to humans?

According to The Texas Parks and Wildlife, black bears are native to all of Texas, but in the early 1900s, heavy hunting and trapping eliminated them from the state. Currently, the only established breeding populations are in the Big Bend area of West Texas. While no one is sure how many bears currently live in Texas, experts agree that wildfires in Mexico, as well as drought conditions in other regions, have likely caused bears to migrate to new areas, including many parts of Texas.

Are There Bears in the Texas Hill Country and Should You Be Worried?

Photo: Pixabay

Black bears are considered omnivores. Vegetable material almost always comprises over half the bear’s diet, with insects and other animals comprising a very small percentage. In particular, fresh leaves, fruits, berries, nuts, roots, and tubers are favorite foods seasonally, with insects and small mammals eaten when the opportunity arises.

Black bears mate during the months of June and July. This might account for some of the sightings in the Texas Hill Country, as bears travel to find a mate during the summer months. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists believe that female black bears in Texas hibernate while males do not. The young are born in January or February, while the mother is “hibernating.” She normally gives birth to two-to-three cubs every two years.

Are There Bears in the Texas Hill Country and Should You Be Worried?

Photo: Pixabay/Skeeze

Texas Parks and Wildlife rangers assure citizens that black bears are generally not a risk to humans, but they can become a nuisance if they gain a taste for human food, pet food, or trash. Recent reports of bears tipping over and damaging deer feeders and a few raiding trash cans along the Texas-Mexico border have sparked concern among experts.“By eliminating food rewards, we eliminate most of the problems,” says TPWD biologist Jonah Evans of Alpine, the department’s bear coordinator. “Many communities in bear country have effectively adapted to live with bears, but it takes everyone working together and doing their part.”

The most effective strategy is for residents to secure their trash, bird feeders, and pet food, so these creatures don’t become habituated to easy meals, Evans notes. “This cannot be overstated,” he continues. “The saying ‘A fed bear is a dead bear’ is absolutely true. If a bear becomes habituated and food-conditioned, there is little we can do to save it. It will likely have to be destroyed.”

Bears are a threatened species in Texas, so they cannot be legally hunted or harmed. If you spot a black bear in your area, report the sighting to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.