Black bear reports bring official lookouts

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hey, Boo Boo, how about a pic-a-nic at Taco Bell?

Reports of a black bear sighting near Taco Bell and Kroger in the Pemberton Square Boulevard commercial area Monday and today had state and local law enforcement officials on the lookout this morning.

“It very possibly could be a bear,” said Brad Young, black bear biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “This time of year, young bears do wander around and end up where they are not supposed to be.”

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Young said calls to 911 and the department sent a wildlife officer to the area this morning.

No property damage and no threats to people or pets were reported, Young added.

“The bear is not aggressive,” said Master Sgt. Charlie Gross, state wildlife officer, who was searching the woods along with several Vicksburg police officers. “If it’s a male, he is probably looking for a mate and might be traveling.”

It is not uncommon for young male bears 2 to 3 years old to be “pushed out by older, larger bears and looking for territory to call their own to cross into unfamiliar places, even wander into residential areas,” Young said.

“No, black bears are not dangerous, but obviously they are wild animals and should be treated with respect,” Young said.

If wandering in the Pemberton Square Boulevard area, a black bear probably has come up from the woods around the Warren County-Claiborne County line at the Big Black River, Young said. So many sightings have been reported there, he said, the department put up a bear-crossing caution sign on U.S. 61 South.

It’s also not uncommon for bears to swim across the Mississippi River, even when the water is not at its current, near-historic low level, he added.

In Warren County, a Louisiana black bear was spotted on Davis Island in the Mississippi River in the spring of 2010. Young, the program leader of the department’s Black Bear Program, has said the black bear population is rising. The population was about 50 in the state in 2002, and has risen to 120 to 150, he said.

“Our standard operating procedure is to let bears be bears,” he said. “Unless it is causing property damage or becoming a nuisance, we tend to back off and let the bear go on its way.”

Any bear sightings should be reported to 911 or to the MDWFP at 601-432-2400 or 800-237-6278.

And just like in the “Yogi Bear” TV cartoons, where the older Yogi and younger Boo Boo scavenged picnickers’ fare, humans are cautioned here.

“Don’t approach it,” Young said. “We don’t want to scare it, make it climb a tree or put it in a position where it can’t get away on its own.”