Agencies investigating black bear found slain in Sharkey Co.

Published 5:24 pm Saturday, January 19, 2008

ROLLING FORK, Miss. (AP) Mississippi and federal authorities are investigating the killing of an endangered black bear found this week along a dirt road in Sharkey County.

Brad Young, a black bear biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildfire, Fisheries and Parks, said the bear was found Monday by a passing motorist. The DWFP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating.

Young said the bear was shot in the head.

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“It’s really bad that it happened in Rolling Fork — with all the support they’ve given for black bear preservation,” Young said.

Sharkey County is home to the Delta National Forest, an area known for its black bear population.

Rolling Fork also hosts a festival, called The Great Delta Bear Affair, an event that pays homage to President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous bear hunt that resulted in what is now the “teddy bear.” The affair also aims to increase awareness of bear preservation.

Young said the bear was not one of the six wildlife officers had tagged with radio collars, used to track migration patterns.

He said Sharkey and Issaquena counties combined are home to 15 and 20 black bears. Young said about 100 are believed to be in various other parts of the state.

The bear’s death marks the second time in about seven years that a bear has been found killed in Mississippi, Young said.

Eric Wade Mobley of Grace was convicted in 2002 of killing a black bear and dumping its remains at a hunting club in Issaquena County a year earlier. Mobley was ordered to pay restitution and fines of nearly $10,000 and was placed on a one-year probation that also prohibited him from hunting.

In November, black bear crossing signs were placed along U.S. 61 South near the Big Black River to serve as both a warning and a tool for awareness about the presence of black bears in the area. Other signs were posted along Mississippi 16 near Rolling Fork.

More signs are planned to go up in areas where the bears are prevalent, Young said.