Black Bear Management in Chihuahua Desert


Bears are legendary animals in the United States of America. Over theyears, the number of bars has significantly reduced mostly due tohuman interference. In the 19th century, bears became targets fortheir hides, and they became targets for trophies. As the populationgrew, people cleared large areas and their territories overlappedwith the bear movement tracks. Therefore, there was an increasehuman-bear contact and their numbers reduced due to human inflictedmortalities. The government and other bear protecting agenciesdeveloped measures to preserve the remaining population. They came upwith a public agreement, restricted areas and bears recoveryprograms.

The American bears in the Chihuahuan desert landscape are among theendangered animals since they survive in the Monte islands that arein the middles of an inhospitable desert. During the late 1800 andearly 1900 people resolved to get rid of carnivores that were actingas a threat to the inflating number of cattle (Onorato et al., 2003).The black bear and the wolves target from extermination. The remnantsfled to the Chisos Mountains in the Big Bend National Park leading toa natural colonization of the area. The Chihuahuan Desert is an aridarea with an average annual rainfall of 30.5 centimeters with theheavy rains occurring in July, August, and September (Onorato et al.,2003). The management of the Big Bend National Park is responsiblefor the management of the black bears in the desert, and they employvarious measures to ensure their safety especially from thehuman-inflicted mortality.

Initially, the desert was not a habitat for black bears especiallyafter their numbers drastically decreased due to massive hunting bythe cattle keepers. Researchers and biologists saw the possibility ofthe Bears re-colonizing the habitat if the dangers to their livescould be eliminated. Unlike the Grizzlies that can be violet withhuman beings, the black bears are a bit mild and the females can onlyattack a person if she believes that her cubs are in danger (Hellgrenet al., 2005). The first move to attract bears to the area wasrestricted grazing. The move reduces the contact between the bearsand the animals and consequently a reduced human interference. Thenumber of sightings, therefore, increased from five in a year 45years ago to more than 70 sightings in 2013.

In addition, the management maintains a computer data base systemthat stores information about all the bear observations by visitorsall year round. The information includes the location of sight, thetime, and date as well as the age composition in the case of groupobservation (Onorato et al., 2003). The observation and track of datahelp to estimate the number of adult females and males as well as thecubs’ sex composition.

The knowledge that humans are the biggest enemies to the black beardrove biologists and other animal protecting agencies to createawareness on its protection. The black bear roams a vast area of landand the increased human habitation near the desert means that thebears might find their way into farms or homes. Therefore, there is acontinuous campaign for the protection of black bears and the peopleresiding in the neighborhoods usually report sightings to the staffin Big Bend National Park (Hellgren et al., 2005). The move has beeninstrumental in sighting distressed bears especially during the dryspell when there is very few for the bears to eat. The animals arelikely to approach human residencies in search of food, and they arelikely to feed on trash that might interfere with their boy systems.The biologists working in the area try as much as possible tomaintain a natural environment for the bears, but occasional feedingon artificial food is not uncommon (Onorato et al., 2003).

Another important measure established to protect the black bear inChihuahuan desert and the neighboring areas is having an on-call teamready to respond to any call of distress involving the bears.Sometimes, due to the bears feeding on an artificial matter likedetergents or soaps in the human residencies, they might develop someobservable inactivity (Onorato et al., 2003). The rapport createdbetween the management teams, and the members of the public resultsin immediate reporting and a team are dispatched to see to thesituation. After ensuring the safety of the bears, the staff followsup for any sightings of the individual bears to ensure that they arestill healthy. For example, on 20th June 2011, a female with threecubs was spotted in a state of unusual inactivity. It was easy tonote that there was something about the behavior of the family sinceit has been spotted earlier foraging and playing. Those who saw italerted the staff at Big Bend who turned up and after observing thefamily carefully, they concluded that there was a possibility ofdigestive complication mostly due to feeding on an artificial matter.They set trays of water and within four hours after taking it thefamily disappeared into the woods. People reported sightings a daylater of the family foraging and playing.

Another primary management technique introduced by the biologists toprotect the black bar in the desert was the reintroduction of thepronghorn antelopes. The desert does not have a constant supply offood for the black bears. Therefore, the artificial manipulation ofthe environment would significantly restrict bears from roaming intohuman settlements in search of food (Onorato et al., 2003). Also,the bear protecting agencies have continued to sensitize members ofthe public on keeping their trash in tight cans that cannot beaccessed by bears. The rationale behind this is that the black bearis a quick learner, and it usually goes back to a source of food.Some parks have operationalized the idea of destroying the thirdoffender, that is, a bear that visits a residence more than two timessince it can become a nuisance in future. However, due to the fewnumbers of black bears in the desert, the public is highlydiscouraged from harming the bears.

In conclusion, the bear population in the Chihuahuan desert isgradually increasing courtesy of the efforts of the biologist andstaff members at Big Bend as well as the efforts of the people.Although the area has become unfavorable to black bear due to thehuman-bear conflict, the biologists have put measures to support thepopulation recovery. They have created awareness among the members often public, and the rapport helps in recording sightings and trackingbars with unusual behavior. The reintroduction of antelopes in theecosystem also assists in providing the bears with food since thedesert have long dry spells, and it reduces the bears visits to thenearby residences in search of food. Their efforts not only protectthe bears from mortality but also they are recovery plans that haveincreased in the number of bears in the area.


Hellgren, E. C.,Onorato, D. P., &amp Skiles, J. R. (2005). Dynamics of a black bearpopulation within a desert metapopulation. BiologicalConservation, 122(1), 131-140.

Onorato, D. P.,Hellgren, E. C., Mitchell, F. S., &amp Skiles Jr, J. R. (2003). Homerange and habitat use of American black bears on a desert MontaneIsland in Texas. Ursus, 120-129.