By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal
HOUSTON – Reports of a black bear sighting in Chickasaw County have local game and fish officers checking into the matter and reminding the public that bears are a protected species.
Conservation Officer Danny Nicholson, of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, said a family traveling a county road in northern Chickasaw County reported seeing a black bear Tuesday night.
“The bears we have in Mississippi are small and are the less aggressive black bear,” said Nicholson. “They are not known to hurt people and usually the presence of people or a loud noise is enough to make them run away.”
Nicholson said this alleged sighting would be the first in Chickasaw County in many years. He also pointed out large wild hogs, which are also black, might be mistaken for a bear and are known to run in the area.
“I don’t know what they saw but we want anyone who spots a black bear to contact law enforcement immediately,” said Nicholson. “They are a protected animal and we will be glad to respond to your called. I want to add that anyone who shoots a bear in Mississippi can be fined $10,000.”
Nicholson said a black bear was hit and killed by a car in Caledonia several years ago. He pointed out the Tombigbee National Forrest in Chickasaw County is big and secluded enough to support bears.
“These animals have been known to travel hundreds of miles,” said Nicholson. “They do like to get into garbage and have been known to tear up bee hives to get honey.”
A 130-pound black bear was tranquilized in Lakeland just east of Memphis two months ago.
A black bear was spotted in a Prentiss County garden in June.
Black bears are very rare in Mississippi and the MDWFP estimates Mississippi is home to roughly 120 bears, up from estimates of 50 bears in 2002.
The University of Mississippi adopted the black bear as its on field mascot recently and the rise in black bear sightings across the state has spawned a variety of jokes and puns.