Black bear collared in Wilkinson County for collaborative research project
Published 11:37 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023
WOODVILLE — Researchers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and Mississippi State University recently collared a black bear in Wilkinson County. Research projects collecting hair samples for DNA using snag wires and collecting movement data through GPS collars are underway this summer.
Black bear sightings, including a viral video of a bear seen in Pass Christian last week, are flowing into the MDWFP with 69 reported sightings this year. Private landowners in Southwest Mississippi can help the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks trap and conduct research on black bears.
Black Bear program coordinator Anthony Ballard is asking anyone who has regular black bear sightings on their property or lease properties south of I-20 to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The counties of interest were originally Adams, Amite, Claibonre, Copiah, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pike and Wilkinson Counties but a broader net has been cast in the past few weeks. Landowners participating in the program will aid a collaborative research project put on by Mississippi State University and MDWFP which will start in June.
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Ballard said they will work with private landowners to make research work more efficient. He was recently named the Black Bear Program coordinator in March after Richard Rummel retired from the position last fall. The new Mississippi bear man said he has a few goals including getting an updated solid estimate on what the density of the black bear population is.
Mississippi has seen a recovery in the native population over the last few decades. The black bear program recorded its first breeding female in 2005. Ballard said the increase in numbers means a likelihood of more sightings and potential conflicts.
“We want to make sure the public understands how to live with bears,” Ballard said earlier this month. “We will teach people about how to avoid conflict. It is one of our big goals. We are planning to publish new information about bears on our webpage too.”
Two species of black bears reside in Mississippi, the Louisiana Black Bear and the American Black Bear. MDWFP has an interactive map found on the Black Bear Program page which shows where bears have been seen. To date, Mississippians have reported 389 sightings since 2016. Wilkinson County has 25 black bear sightings, Claiborne has 20, Jefferson has 14, Franklin has 13, Adams has eight, Copiah has six, Lincoln County has two and Amite, Pike and Lawrence Counties have had one sighting since 2016.
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 can report a bear sighting online to help Mississippi’s bear program in collecting data about the state bear population.