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Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
1505 Eastover Drive, Jackson, MS, 39211
Phone: 601-432-2400

Friday, June 07, 2013

Mississippi Coast Black Bears on the Move

JACKSON - In recent weeks, several areas in Jackson and Harrison counties have experienced higher than normal black bear activity.   Southeast Mississippi is home to a small population of Louisiana Black Bear which normally occur farther north around Desoto National Forest, several State Wildlife Management Areas, and on private lands.  During spring, after a few months of inactivity, these bears resume their normal life cycle and begin roaming in search of food.  This seasonal nomadic activity is what is responsible for bear sightings that have been documented recently in the Mississippi coastal areas.

Approximately 90 percent of a black bear's diet is composed of plant material, including fruits, berries, acorns, grasses, nuts, as well as insects, grubs, and occasionally carrion.  This time of year, bears can be easily attracted to open garbage containers, pet food, bird feeders, livestock feed, or barbeque grills. Any one of these attractants might keep a bear coming back and could create a nuisance situation.  If a bear has been sighted in an area, particularly a suburban or residential area, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) is asking for the public's cooperation in securing or temporarily removing any of the above attractants from around their homes while a bear is present in the vicinity.  The best way to avoid problems with black bears is to take precautions that reduce this attraction.Under no circumstance should anyone feed a bear.  Not only is it against the law, but bears will quickly lose their natural fear of humans as they learn to associate people with food which can lead to property damage.

It is not the policy of MDWFP to relocate bears that are simply passing through an unfamiliar territory.  Trapping and transporting a bear is a costly procedure that puts the bear at considerable risk and if a bear has become accustomed to feeding on unnatural foods it does not solve the problem but only transfers it to another area.  Additionally, bears have an amazing homing instinct and will almost always try to return to where they were trapped.  Black bears are generally shy of humans and should not be considered a physical threat to human life.  As previously mentioned, only when they begin to associate humans with food and lose their fear of humans, do they become a serious nuisance problem.

In southern Mississippi, black bears are fully protected by Federal law as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act and are classified as Endangered under State law.  Any attempt to harm, injure, or kill a black bear in Mississippi could result in a considerable monetary fine as well as imprisonment.

MDWFP is working in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies along the Mississippi Coast regarding black bear movements and sightings.  MDWFP appreciates the assistance offered by these agencies and requests the cooperation and patience of coastal residents as these bears travel through.  If you would like to report a bear sighting you may call the MDWFP Wildlife Bureau at 601-432-2199 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or 1-800-BESMART after hours.

For more information regarding bears in Mississippi, visit our website at www.mdwfp.com/bear or call us at (601) 432-2199. 


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