Bears at the Turn of the 20th Century
At the beginning of the 20th century, black bears were considered numerous in this mountainous desert region and bear signs were common into the 1930s.
Decline of the Black Bear
Loss of habitat as settlements grew around the mountains and the targeting of bears by hunters, ranchers and federal officials marked a rapid decline in the bear population. When the park was created 1944, bear sightings rarely occurred.
Bears Absent in Park
Bears did migrate into the park occasionally from neighboring Mexico during the next several decades but bear sightings were still a rare event. However, in 1969 and 1978, female bears were sighted with female cubs offering hope of a return of the black bear to the park.
Return of the Bears
The stewardship of the National Park Service was rewarded in 1988 with photographic evidence of a female black bear with three cubs. Sightings of the black bear by visitors also increased rising from 27 sightings in 1998, to nearly 600 in 1996.
Black Bears Today
Today, about a dozen adult black bears are considered to permanently reside within Big Bend National Park, with more bears using the park as part of their range. Additionally, nearby desert conservation areas have also reported a continuous population of bears.
Article Written By David Chandler
David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.