Officials: Bear sightings on the rise in Mississippi

Published 1:49 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Black bear sightings on game cameras in the Mississippi woods have become increasingly common, not just along the Mississippi River but in almost every corner of the state.

The Facebook page Black Bear Sightings has been very active this summer, with people across the state posting pictures from game cameras and other sightings. 

In Copiah County, for example, two black bears were recently caught on game cameras in and around the New Zion area. One bear passed through the area and had its picture recorded on June 11; another, fitted with a transmitter collar, was caught on camera on June 26 as it feasted in a clover field.

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That particular bear was fitted with a transmitter collar two months ago in Franklin County near Meadville. Since then, the bear has been tracked to a point north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Not only has the bear been tracked crossing the Mississippi River, it traveled north to Port Gibson and then onto Utica and the New Zion community.

Current tracking information indicates that the bear is headed back south. Since it was fitted with the radio collar, the bear has traveled about 300 miles.

Officials with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks report that the Mississippi bear population is on the rebound, with reports of at least one bear in 69 of the state’s 82 counties.

In the 1900s, approximately a dozen bears had been identified in the state. Since then, protections have been put in place, leading to a current rise in the state’s overall bear population.

Anthony Ballard, MDWFP bear program director, has been monitoring the rebound of the bear population, including capturing, collaring and collecting genetic samples of bears in selected areas. A recent study covered five counties, including Copiah County, in Southwest Mississippi. From the collars, researchers receive periodic GPS information that helps them track and locate the bears. This is especially helpful in locating and checking bear dens for cubs. Cubs tend to stay with their mother for 16 to 18 months before going off on their own.