I have lived in a remote, wildlife rich region of the North Central Arkansas Ozarks for three years and I have not yet seen a black bear. After checking a game camera I set in my yard and seeing footage of two different bears in 24 hours, I wonder of there are more bears in these woods than I thought. I hope there are, as a population of bears adds integrity and character to a habitat. I love feeling the possibility of seeing bears were I live. Check out the footage
As you will see the first bear is a handsome, healthy young male bear. The second bear looks healthy but has a badly damaged, or possibly severed back paw. This injury may have resulted from a fall from a tree, a trap or a snare, a fight with another bear, or a gunshot. It seems the bear has adapted to moving on three legs, but this injury will certainly make its already difficult life much tougher.
Arkansas was once known as “the bear state,” but overhunting cut the once huge population to around fifty animals by the late 1950’s. A ban on hunting and introducing bears from Wisconsin in the late 50’s has resulted in what is known as one of the greatest population recoveries of a large mammal in history. There are now an estimated 5,000 bears in the state, and bears are moving north into Missouri allowing a population recovery there as well. Arkansas has 36 years of bear hunting seasons.
Bears are difficult to live with in rural agricultural areas, as anything a human wants to eat, such as crops, animal feed and livestock is regarded as bear food as well. Care needs to be taken to keep human food and garbage away from bears, or bears become such a nuisance they must be destroyed. This is definitely easier said than done. This last summer extreme drought conditions in Northern Arkansas caused natural berry crop failures, and this led to an increase of bears invading human spaces in search of food.
The State of Arkansas wishes to manage for healthy populations of black bears because they are natural parts of the ecosystem, and create a hunting resource. In Tennessee I have heard that large numbers of viewable black bears at Cade’s Cove attract many wildlife lovers and photographers and are an important part of the local economy. It would be great if sometime in the future some region of the Ozarks could have a similar situation. People do love bears, as long as they aren’t breaking into homes in search of food. In my opinion if there are lots of bears around here they must be relatively very well-behaved compared to other areas where bears and people coexist because I havent heard of too many problems so far.
I’ll try to keep the game camera going and achieve my next goal a cougar. I have heard of many cougar sightings in the vicinity, and I even saw one in my driveway in June. This is another large mammal that is re-populating the Ozarks which certainly concerns many residents, especially those with small livestock such as sheep, goats and chickens who don’t have protective herd-dogs. There are many downsides to living among large, potentially dangerous animals, but there is also a magic feeling of being in an intact, powerful wilderness that does appeal to many. I also imagine that cougars would be a good way to help control the invasive wild boar, which is “public enemy #1” for the Ozark ecosystem. It is worth it to try for a good balance for everyone in my opinion.
Here is an old article I wrote about camera trapping in Alaska and the crazy surprises that I found such as wolves and bears living undetected very close to residential areas! Click Some Folks Call Me Gutpile Its a good read and there is some cool footage of lynx, grizzlies, wolves and more.