Several black bear sightings have been reported from mid-May through early-June in Izard, Sharp, Fulton and Independence Counties.
On May 13, a black bear was seen swimming in Crown Lake, in Horseshoe Bend, and also crossing the road on Ranchview Lane.
On May 17, a black bear was seen at Robinson Point on Norfork Lake by a Sturkie family.
On May 30, a Horseshoe Bend family spotted a full grown black bear on Hwy. 63 at the Williford turnoff near Martin Creek bridge.
A brown bear was reportedly seen on June 7 in Southside, on top of Ramsey Mountain in Independence County.
On June 15, a black bear was seen by Quilted Heart on Hwy. 289.
The American black bear, the only species of bear in Arkansas, carries a powerful Natural State attraction for wildlife watchers and photographers, many of whom consider bears to be the most significant symbol of the vanishing American wilderness. Formerly one of North America’s most widely occurring mammals, the American black bear was so common in Arkansas at the time of pioneer settlement that the state’s original nickname was “The Bear State.” Now bears are absent from much of the continent’s interior, while the population of Arkansas bears is recovering from decline.
The current population of Arkansas bears is estimated at more than 3,000. They usually appear taller at the hips than at the shoulders and can reach over six feet tall when standing erect. Male black bears are known to exceed 600 pounds. In Arkansas, adult males typically range from 130 to 300 pounds and adult females from 90 to 150 pounds. Their weights vary considerably within a single year and even between years, depending on food abundance.
Black bears in the wild prefer feeding in early morning and late evening, but are active at night. Insects are a mainstay of their diet, which also includes blackberries, pokeberries and blueberries in the summer and acorns and hickory nuts in autumn.
American black bears occur in a variety of colors ranging from black to almost white. The black color phase is virtually the only one found in the eastern United States. Black bears may occasionally have a white patch or “blaze” on the chest. Brown and cinnamon-colored black bears become increasingly common in the more variable, drier and mountainous habitats in the western United States.
An interesting exception to this rule occurs in Arkansas. Approximately 23 percent of bears in the Ozark Mountains and three percent of bears in the Ouachita Mountains are brown or cinnamon-colored. Cinnamon and brown-colored black bears are fairly common in these areas.
Trey Reid, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said weeks of temperatures in the 90s after cooler weather in early spring might have led to the animals’ most active periods happening over a shorter period of time. This is also the case for snakes, he added.
Reid said the commission does not track bear sightings but that they usually leave their dens in the spring. With social media, more sightings are recorded. It’s not necessarily happening more, Reid said, “we just know about more of it.”
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Arkansas.com.

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