By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Although very rare, black bears do exist in growing numbers in Mississippi, meaning outdoor enthusiasts are certain to begin having more frequent encounters with them. Therefore, a few well-proven pointers can do us all a world of good.
While black bears are legal game in many places, they are very strictly protected in Mississippi, something hunters of every age should know. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, killing a black bear here is a serious offense. The penalty includes a fine of $2,000 to $5,000 and the loss of hunting privileges for no less than one year.
The MDWFP estimates Mississippi is home to roughly 120 bears, up from estimates of 50 bears in 2002.
Other than in the case of a mother protecting her cubs, black bears are almost never aggressive. Nonetheless, their presence means most of us aren’t the meanest things in the woods anymore. To that end, here are a few recommendations on what to do to avoid close contact with a bear – and what to do if those precautions doesn’t work.
According to Backpacking Magazine and outdoor.com, bears will ordinarily avoid people, yet sometimes a stray cub will wander into the area where you are.
Best advice: Steer clear
A female bear will be provoked more than quickly if you are between her and her cubs or if she feels they are threatened. If you are in the vicinity of a bear cub, don’t approach it, and makes certain you stay clear of it. Take a great deal of noise to attempt to drive the cub away from you while you move away from it.
According to the MDWFP, if you are uncomfortable with your proximity to an adult bear in the wild, make noise so the bear knows you are there, then slowly back away.
Bears leave their mother’s side at around 18 months of age and may travel hundreds of miles in search of unoccupied territory. This often leads them into neighborhoods, where the attraction of easy food in the form of garbage brings them into close contact with humans.
Garbage in bear-prone areas should be secured or stored indoors, because all experts agree the best way to avoid trouble with bears is to avoid attracting them in the first place.
In the very unlikely event a black bear charges you, experts say you should not run. Make yourself appear as large and loud as possible. Most charges are “bluff” charges. In the event the charge by a black bear was not a bluff, experts at outdoor.com say you should not play dead – fight as hard as possible and continue making noise until the bear breaks off the attack.