The American black bear is native to the United States. Black bears were found everywhere in my home state, Texas, but over-trapping and over-hunting in the 1920s all but wiped out the native population. Texas severely restricting hunting in the 1970s in an attempt to help bears repopulate the state and then made it illegal in the 1980s. Since the late 1980s sporadic bear sightings have been reported and documented in west Texas. And in the last year, sightings have been reported to Texas Parks & Wildlife in the Hill Country (aka central Texas), which is where the Princesses live. This is exciting news!

I know some folks might be leery of cohabitating with wildlife that can cause bodily harm. However, many believe fear of black bears is unfounded because their diet is largely vegetation and they are not aggressive by nature. Indeed, the black bear has been described as “shy and retiring.” But they will attack when provoked (just like many people). Experts suggest we are a greater threat to black bears than they are to us. Yes, we are a threat because we can shoot them, but more so we are a threat when we leave food out for them to forage.

Black bears will latch onto an area if there is readily available food in garbage cans, deer feeders, bird feeders, or food left outside for our domestic animals. Texas Parks & Wildlife warns, “a fed bear is a dead bear” in this regard. Black bears are opportunistic feeders and like to stay where they have access to easy calories. The problem is that bears are also clever and curious, so they will not only stay where there is easy food, they will explore their food source to try and find more.* This is when they become “problem” or “nuisance” bears.

This cannot be overstated…If a bear becomes habituated and [human-related] food-conditioned, there is little we can do to save it. It will likely have to be destroyed.” — Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist Jonah Evans

Bears are not just majestic animals with raw power and imposing stature. They are revered in branches of Paganism and across the globe (and across time). Bears are a prominent figure in Native American culture (regardless of religion). Also, they are symbolic of strength in Heathenry.

The Bear is considered the greatest of all beasts, and are held sacred to Thor. Bears are considered to be similar in personality and temperament to humans as they are intelligent, curious, highly adaptable, brazen and persistent creatures, with an innate awareness of fairness and honour. A common favorite of berserkers and shape shifters, the Bear is often the totem spirit of those who are extraordinarily strong of body, mind, and soul.” — Odinsvolk

So, I’m excited about black bears in Central Texas because it makes me happy when nature rebounds. And because bears are important in Heathenry. I love that my faith is tied to nature! If you see a black bear anywhere in Texas — really anywhere in the U.S. — please report it to your state wildlife department to help them track the population. But be safe! If you sight a bear do not approach it <♫>; it might interpret your movement as a provocation and attack. You can learn more about black bears from Black Bear Conservation Committee.

What about elsewhere in the Realm? Are there any endangered species making a comeback in your area?

* If you haven’t seen the video of baby bears in a dumpster, it is well worth viewing! It’s adorable and heart warming. Unfortunately, these bears are the perfect example of “problem” or “nuisance” bears.

+ Featured image: Young black bear in a tree, from the Nature Conservacy.