Louisiana Black bears keep multiplying, making encounter more likely

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It was just a normal day for Andrea Ruffin who was driving down I-10 on her way to New Orleans, she had no idea what was about to hit her.

“All of a sudden, boom. I never even saw it,” Ruffin said.

Ruffin had just hit one of Louisiana’s black bears. It totaled her car.

“I know people that have hit deer, but I don’t recall anyone hitting a bear,” she said. “Imagine not seeing what you hit, all of a sudden bam. Airbags explode at 70 mph and you know nothing was in front of you.”

Maria Davidson, who studies the state’s growing black bear population said encounters will become more likely. There are an estimated 750 to 1000 bears in the state but that number is growing as more natural habitat is restored.

“We are seeing range expansion for those populations,” Davidson said. We’ve been doing range studies for so long in the Atchafalaya and Tensas Parishes, we know that the areas where we’ve always had bears, those areas are fairly saturated, but obviously, the bears keep breeding and producing more bears so you get this range expansion. As that happens we get more rural residents that haven’t had to live with bears are starting to see them.”

The bears are seen roaming West Baton Rouge Parish, she said are largely from Pointe Coupee Parish which is home to one of the largest populations in the state.

She said if you live in an area that is known to have black bears roam, you need to make sure not to leave anything out bears likes to eat like birdseed, dog or cat food, or trash.

“A bear is really driven by its stomach and it follows a really good nose,” Davidson said. “If there’s nothing to eat at your house outside, no birdseed, no hummingbird feeder, no dog food or cat food on the porch or readily available garbage, you might see a bear walk through your yard but he won’t become a habitual visitor.”

She said bears are drawn to easy food and if they become too accustomed to rummaging through populated areas, they can pose a danger and might have to be euthanized, as was the case with a bear in Port Allen.

“If he finds a really good meal then you can bet that bear is going to remember that and he’s going to come back for more,” she said.

IF you do come across a bear, Davidson said it is best to simply get out of its way. Black bears are largely unconfrontational but she said it is best to not test your luck. If a bear gets too close experts to suggest making a lot of noise to try and scare it away. It is illegal to kill a bear unless it is in self-defense.

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