A recent spotting of a black bear in Hardy may not be as uncommon as one might think.
According to Lt. Steve Taylor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, there are many black bears in Arkansas; however, most of them are located near Sylamore Wildlife Management Area near Calico Rock.
The AGFC actually began stocking bears in the area years ago to increase the Arkansas bear population. Most of the bears spotted in the area come from Sylamore, he said.
Bears have families; however, when male bears reach a certain size, his other family members run him out, Taylor said. The male black bear then is left looking for a territory of his own. The male may travel hundreds of miles in his search.
Taylor said while there may be a few black bears living in the area, most of the ones are likely just passing through.
"Those are the most common ones seen here," he said.
In fact, a tagged black bear was located in Corning a few years ago. That tag traced the bear back to Sylamore, he said.
Bears are not generally aggressive, Taylor said.
"In fact, they're as afraid of you as you are of them. If you see one somewhere, he'll look at you and you'll look at him and you'll both take off in the other direction," he said.
The exception is with a mother bear with her cubs. The mother will become aggressive if she thinks someone is attempting to hurt her young, he said.
The public should not approach a bear or feed one. When fed by people, the animal learns to associate people and food and can lead to more contact with humans, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Web site.
The black bear is the smallest of the three North American bear species, the site said. It was once one of the most widely distributed mammals in North America.
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture Web site, bears were a valuable commodity in the colonial period. They were used for meat, fur and fat. By the early 19th century the bear/human relationship changed with bear hunting becoming a proof of masculinity. In fact, by the early 20th century, black bears were near extinction in the state.
To change the trend, the AGFC began to release more than 250 black bears from Minnesota and Canada in the state beginning in 1959, the AGFC said. Bear hunting was also banned until the 1980s. There is a bear hunting season in the state today for five zones in the state.
The size of the bears varies greatly. Adult females seldom reach 300 pounds; however, males age seven or older usually exceed 400 pounds but can weigh more than 700 pounds, the AGFC said.
Breeding takes place during the summer. Males search near and far for mates. The females then give birth in the winter. The mother and her cubs emerge from the bear den in mid-May. The cubs stay with their mother through the following winter until the next summer, the AGFC said.
Arkansas' black bears begin searching for their winter homes in early October and enter them by late December. They find their dens in many places including rock crevices, excavated burrows and in tree cavities, the Web site said.
Bears eat mostly fruit, berries, nuts and insects; however, they may dine on pet food, garbage or honey when near a populated area, the AGFC said.
Sometimes bears cause trouble by raiding garbage sites, entering buildings where feed is stored, killing livestock or destroying bee hives. In these instances, biologists often have to trap the bear to remove him from that particular area.