David McFadden of Water Valley found a surprise earlier this month while checking the deer camera he had placed in a secluded hunting area near Hwy. 315 in southeastern Panola County.
He had attached his motion-detector camera just after Christmas on a 49.5 acres tract of land on Robinson Road owned by Richard Arnold. Almost a week later, McFadden retrieved his memory card that stores the digital images and took it home to look at the pictures.
At first glance, McFadden was disappointed because he did not get a picture of a deer. That disappointment quickly turned to excitement when he noticed a large black bear on one of his images.
“I yelled to my wife, I got a bear,” McFadden said.
He sent a copy of the picture to the picture to Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Black Bear Program Leader Brad W. Young, who expressed immediate interest in the photo.
In an e-mailed reply, Young reports that bear sightings in this area of the state are infrequent, but that he wasn’t surprised.
McFadden and landowner Arnold also were curious if the bear posed a threat in the area.
Citing normal bear behavior, Young writes that bears are very shy and secretive animals.
“You likely would not have known he was there without the use of a camera,” the state’s bear expert continues in an e-mail. Young also estimated that the bear was on the move, and they would likely not see him again.
If the bear does remain in the area, Young expressed an interest in trapping the animal and fitting it with a radio collar for tracking.
The Panola sighting followed discoveries earlier this month of dead bears in Bolivar and Sharkey counties.
Members of a Bolivar County hunting club reported the discovery of a bear carcass Jan. 1. They immediately reported their discovery to officials of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP).
“We exhausted every resource available, but we’re still unable to determine a cause of death,” Young stated following the discovery. Biologists reported that the carcass failed to yield conclusive evidence. They estimated that the bear had weighed about 250 pounds, Young said.
“I would like to thank the members of the hunting club; they were very cooperative throughout the investigation,” Young added.
While this sub-species of bear isn’t on the endangered species list, it’s still unlawful to hunt, kill or trap a black bear in Mississippi. There are approximately 80-100 throughout the state and they are monitored closely.
“We take our bear program seriously and any time we find a dead bear we’re going to investigate the cause of death,” Young said.
A motorist discovered the remains of a small bear Jan. 14 on a dirt road in Sharkey County and reported it to a conservation officer. The incident is still under investigation. Preliminary investigations indicate that the bear died from a gunshot wound to the head; a majority of the pelt had been removed.
“It’s unfortunate that this incident occurred in an area that has a long tradition of supporting conservation of black bears,” Young said.
Black bears in this region are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and killing a threatened or endangered animal is punishable by fines up to $100,000 and one year in jail. The MDWFP is actively investigating these incidents and anyone with information should contact the MDWFP Law Enforcement Bureau 601-432-2400.
For more information about Mississippi’s black bear program visit www.mdwfp.com.