Mississippi bears are on the move — one traveling as much as 150 miles to Baton Rouge, officials report

Published 6:50 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

A Mississippi bear must have decided he had a taste for a little Louisiana culture and made a 100-mile trek from the woods of Franklin County to Baton Rouge.

If the bear had been traveling by car, it would have taken approximately two hours to travel the 91 miles down MS-569; as the crow flies, it is 72 miles. 

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Bear Program Coordinator Anthony Ballard said it is not uncommon for bears to cross the back and forth between Louisiana and Mississippi. A bear collared in Woodville left Mississippi and traveled to Louisiana in the Atchafalaya Basin, Ballard reported in November. 

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To his knowledge, four collared bears have crossed the border from Louisiana into Mississippi this fiscal year. One traveled into Wilkinson County, one was recollared in Jefferson County and another bear traveled from Louisiana into Wilkinson County, up to Natchez, back down to Woodville and across into Louisiana. ][p0-

Two bears collared in Mississippi crossed the border into Louisiana. Ballard said the MDWFP and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries work together in collecting collars and sharing data. The bear dubbed “M29” is the newest bear to take a hike to Louisiana. 

“He went down to Baton Rouge and went up north, he is currently northeast of Baton Rouge,” Ballard said. “His path is well over 100 miles, maybe 150 miles one way. We have a gap in the data until we get the collar but most of the time bears use woods rather than populated areas to travel. He is currently along a river system. He likely used those to get down. Bears often use river systems and drainages as corridors to travel long distances.” 

Ballard added M29 likely covered more straight line distance than the bear from Woodville who walked to the Atchafalaya basin. The two bears were males. M29 is a young adult bear who weighs about 200 pounds, Ballard said. He will know more about the bear’s age when they get back tooth aging data. The bear’s collar drop-off date is in June 2025. 

One side note to add is the MDWFP reports a new bear sighting near Caseyville in Lincoln County. According to a map of bear sightings since 2016, two bear sightings were reported in West Lincoln and two bear sightings were reported near Caseyville around the Homochitto National Forest. 

Bear days of summer

Black bears become more active in the summer time as they start to breed and young males are kicked out of their mom’s home range. They are shy and secretive and by nature are not predatory.

Supplemental feeding and leaving food out for bears can be a catalyst of human and bear conflicts. MDWFP recommends people stop feeding bears. 

Attacks by black bears are rare and there has never been a reported attack in Mississippi on a human. However, bears are large and powerful so humans should treat them with caution and respect. 

“You are going to see young males dispersing from adult sows. You are likely to see bears show up where you don’t expect them. Sometimes it is in places with humans or urban areas,” Ballard said. “They don’t want to be there. They are just trying to find their own home area.” 

Bear sightings can be submitted on the MDWFP Bear Program webpage. A map on the Bear Program webpage shows reported black bear sightings in Mississippi since 2016. Visit MDWFP.com for more information on Mississippi’s black bears and other wildlife. 

One great resource for readers curious about living with bears is BearWise. Wildlife agencies across the country point to BearWise as the unified center for information on bears. Black bears are native to Mississippi. 

Here are six basics to remember for living with black bears according to BearWise. 

  • Never feed or approach bears
  • Secure food, garbage and recycling
  • Remove bird feeders when bears are active
  • Never leave pet food outdoors
  • Clean and store grills and smokers
  • Alert neighbors to bear activity