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Bear sightings expected to increase as spring approaches

The Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks snapped this picture of a bear. The black bears population has increased with more sightings this spring. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

The Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks snapped this picture of a bear. The black bears population has increased with more sightings this spring. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — As the temperatures begin to rise and the sunny days become more regular, another furry forest friend will be making a more frequent appearance.

The black bear, who’s population has been on the increase, is expected to have more sightings this spring according to Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks bear biologist Richard Rummel.

“The population adjacent in Louisiana and also in southeast Arkansas is expanding and it is a healthy population,” Rummel said. “As that expands, part of that moves across the river into Mississippi over time. So female bears come into Mississippi and reproduce here and we have more cubs.”

Rummel said bears are no strangers to Adams and surrounding counties.

“We get calls all the time,” he said. “Actually, we have had bears reproduce in Wilkinson County. One female had five cubs, which is unheard of. Generally, bears only have two or three and that bear came from Louisiana right across the river.”

While the population is healthy, Rummel said people shouldn’t worry to much about encountering the animal.

“Generally, if you’re in the woods, the bear will hear or smell you and it’ll be gone before you see it,” Rummel said.

But having a bear come onto a property is still something that is likely.

“As spring approaches, in the next month or so, you are going to see bears becoming more active,” Rummel said. “Most of what they are looking for is grass, berries, fruits and things like that, but they are also kind of lazy. If they smell some garbage or pet food, they’ll go for it. They’re just hungry looking for an easy meal.”

As far as why bears populate the area, Rummel said the river plays a major role.

“All along the Mississippi River it is not uncommon to see them,” Rummel said. “They like fairly heavy woods or even down on the coast where there is a lot of pine. They also generally want to be close to a river or stream because they need a ready water source.”

If someone was to encounter a bear, Rummel said noise becomes their best friend.

“If you come outside and there is a bear out there, just make a lot of noise, that will generally scare it off,” he said. “The best thing to avoid conflict or interaction is to try and keep garbage secured and not to leave pet food out over night. Bears have an incredible memory and sense of smell, if he smells it, he is going to keep coming back.”