Time to celebrate ‘Bear Week,’

Published 3:31 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is celebrating black bears with “Bear Week,” which began today. Louisiana and American Black Bears are currently found in three general areas within the state on the Gulf Coast, around the Loess Bluffs of southwest Mississippi and in the Mississippi River Delta.  

Bear Week has a goal to educate Mississippians on the state’s recovering black bear population. MDWFP’s black bear program works to prevent human and bear conflicts while raising a sustainable population in the state. It has been nearly two years since a black bear wandered down the streets of nearby Natchez before it fell for a doughnut in a trap. 

MDWFP and Mississippi State University are working on a research project studying bear movements in the state. Currently, eight bears are equipped with GPS tracking collars and the department hopes to double the number by winter of 2023. MDWFP asks the public to report any bear sightings on the MDWFP webpage. 

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One bear known as M16, also known as Bruce, was collared on Mahannah Wildlife Management Area north of Vicksburg in the spring of 2022. Bruce has crossed a major highway nine times, swam the Yazoo River and covered over 50 miles in his movements. 

A bear’s range size can vary depending on habitat quality.  MDWFP states the average home range for an adult male bear is roughly 20,000 acres while the average home range for an adult female is roughly 5,000 acres.   

Habitat type, sex, age, season, environmental conditions, food availability, and population density all play a significant role in determining size and shape of a bear’s range, according to the MDWFP.  Range sizes typically increase during the summer mating season and during fall when bears are foraging heavily to build fat reserves.

Officials estimate there are 150 black bears in the state. Bears will begin to be more active as the spring moves along so it is not uncommon to see them as they move more. 

Black bears are native to Mississippi and once had a larger population here. President Theodore Roosevelt got his nickname of “Teddy,” when he refused to shoot a black bear tied to a tree in the Mississippi Delta. The “Teddy” bear was born soon after and Roosevelt’s story aided conservation efforts and hunters followed his lead by pursuing game by the rules of Fair Chase.