Baby black bear found in county|Cub was only a few inches long when found

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The first Louisiana black bear cub known to have been born in Warren County has been spotted on Davis Island in the Mississippi River.

“Prior to this cub, the last cub was tagged in Delta National Forest in March of 2008,” said Brad Young, Black Bear Program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The federal preserve is north of Warren County. Davis Island, all private property, is south of Vicksburg and on the Louisiana side of the river, but remains part of Mississippi.

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The infant male weighed about 2 pounds when Young discovered it during a routine changing of the 5-year-old mother’s tracker collar last month, Young said.

The department tries to change the collars every two years as well as check for new cubs, he said.

“We’ve checked five females this year, and she was the only one that had a cub. This was her first,” said Young. “He was the only cub that we’ve documented. He wasn’t more than a few inches long.”

Young said the cub will remain with his mother for the next 16 to 18 months before venturing out and will be collared when he weighs about 100 pounds.

“There’s a chance, since he’s a single cub, his growth rate might be faster,” Young said.

The state has documented five cubs in Mississippi in the past six years, but none was recorded in 2009, Young said.

“There’s a distinction between what we can document and what’s going out there,” said Young regarding the possibility of a higher population.

Young said the black bear population is rising and about 120 live in Mississippi, up from about 50 in 2002.

The bears, which can be dangerous but are not as large or fearsome as other species, such as grizzlies, almost disappeared during the last century due to hunting, pollution and loss of habitat. There’s been a slow but steady turnaround in recent years.

“The population has tripled in the last seven years due to the presence of female bears. For the longest time, we hadn’t had female bears,” Young said. “We’ve actively tagged and collared 28 in the last seven years.”

He said he also believed the population was growing due to migration from Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.

“We’ve provided a better place for bears to live,” said Young about better education and conservation practices.

Black bears are listed as endangered in Mississippi. Harming them in any way is illegal. Most are found in river counties, including Sharkey, Issaquena and Yazoo. The population in Claiborne County is growing near the Big Black River, Young said.

“Anywhere up and down the Mississippi, there are bear sightings coming from the wooded area,” said Young. “Other sightings were concentrated in Biloxi and Gulfport.”

Louisiana’s largest population is found in the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge.

Maria Davidson, large carnivore program manager for Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said that state’s population might be growing. “We do believe the population is not only stable but increasing,” said Davidson.

The number in Louisiana varies, she said. “We’ve had closely 60 collared at one time. We have 35 to 40 collared right now,” she said.

Two subspecies of black bear live in Mississippi — the Louisiana black bear, generally found in the southern part of the state, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the American black bear, often found in Bolivar County, northern states and Canada, Young said.

The two types are basically identical, according to Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Parks and Fisheries.

Davis Island, which includes crop and timberland, bears the name of Joseph Davis, whose Hurricane Plantation was located there. His brother, Jefferson Davis, also had a plantation, Brierfield, on the island and was farming there when told he’d been chosen president of the Confederate States of America. The scene is depicted on one of the Riverfront Murals at City Front.

Contact Tish Butts at