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Are There Bears in Arkansas?

Posted by Rae Adelantar at

Arkansas is a landlocked state with a diverse geography ranging from mountainous regions to densely forested lands.

It is the perfect place for you if you love the outdoors, as you will get to see different types of plants, animals, and terrain.

That said, you are probably asking what many hikers like you have asked many times before, “Are there bears in Arkansas?

There are things you can do so you do not cross paths with one, like not hiking at dawn, dusk, or night. Still, it would be nice to know if you have to be extra careful while on the trail.

Are There Bears in Arkansas?

The quick answer is yes; there are bears in Arkansas. You may now know it as The Natural State, but there was a time when Arkansas was referred to as The Bear State.

In fact, even today, there are still Arkansans who wear tee shirts showing the state’s old history.

This was way back in the early years of the 1900s, at a time when around 50,000 black bears roamed the mostly wooded wilderness.

However, they were hunted down for their meat, fat, and hide until their population dropped to as low as 50 in the 1930s.

Moreover, it did not help that much of their natural habitat was cut down and turned into farmlands.

Bears played an important role in the state’s economy and ecosystem up until this point when they were basically gone.

Finally, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, or AGFC, had to step in to save them and reinvigorate their population. 

Meet the Black Bear

There is only one type of bear that lives in Arkansas, and this is the American black bear or Ursus americanus.

It is among the smallest of all the bear species that you will see in the US.

Size

The males range between 130 and 500 pounds in weight, while the females can weigh anywhere between 50 and 350 pounds.

They can reach a height of five to seven feet when upright and three feet when on all fours.

Before you go thinking that this is a good thing, remember that even the smallest of them are strong enough to do much damage.

What’s more, they can run and climb trees faster than you might think possible because of their size. So, it would be a very bad idea to underestimate them.

Diet

Black bears are omnivores, which is a fancy way of saying that they eat both plants and animals.

Their main diet depends largely on what is available in the area where they live. Given a choice, many of them would go for acorns, nuts, berries, and other similar things. 

That said, they can be pretty opportunistic about their food source, so you need to pack your food well when you go camping.

You also have to be very careful about how you handle your trash. Otherwise, they just might pay your tent a visit.

You won’t likely see a black bear during winter because they would be hunkering down under rock formations or inside hollow trees.

They are not truly hibernating, though, so you still need to be very careful if you stumble upon their den.

Color

Another interesting thing about black bears is that they are not all black. Some are brown, others are gray, and there are those that are in various shades between the two colors.

So, if you are hiking in the Ozark highlands and come across a brownish-orange bear, that is actually a black bear.

Coming Back Strong

As mentioned, when black bears were nearly all hunted down in Arkansas, the AGFC was forced to act. They imposed a hunting ban in 1927 and did not lift it until 1980.

While this move was able to stop the decimation of the bear species, it was not nearly enough. 

The reproductive cycle of female black bears is genetically synchronized with the plant growth cycle in the area.

Also, mother bears do not leave their cubs for 16 to 17 months. As a result, they only reproduce once every two years.

The AGFC had to do more if they were to successfully restore the black bear population in Arkansas.

They came up with a solid plan to import the animals from Minnesota and Canada.   

Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, they were able to introduce over 250 bruins in the area. They also made efforts to improve its natural habitat, especially in the Interior Highlands region.

With this three-prong approach, the AGFC was able to increase the population of black bears in the state.

It was of the most successful plans executed in terms of reintroducing a large animal into an ecosystem.

There are currently anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 black bears in the state, and their number continues to grow.

People are even allowed to hunt them now, although the whole process is tightly regulated.

You will have to get a license for game hunting from AGFC and abide by their rules and regulations.

So, if someone asks you, “Are there bears in Arkansas?” you now have a clear answer.

Are Black Bears Dangerous?

Black bears are inherently shy and not aggressive, and they will generally do what they can to avoid any form of interaction with humans.

In fact, there is a good chance they are as afraid of you as you are of them. However, like most animals, they will defend themselves if they are cornered or feel threatened.   

In these situations, they can be pretty dangerous. This is especially true for mother bears that have cubs.

If you happen to see a cub, resist the urge to approach it, no matter how cute you think it is. This is true even if the little one is alone because its mother is surely somewhere nearby.

Otherwise, you might find yourself face-to-face with a very protective and understandably angry mother bear. You won’t be able to explain your way out of that situation.

How To Avoid or Survive Crossing Paths With a Black Bear

Black bears are generally afraid of people, and they usually do a good job of avoiding contact. 

However, they will be willing to take risks in the search for food, especially if they need to bulk up before winter.

If they manage to find a food source like exposed trash without anyone scaring them away, they will come back for more.

What’s worse, they would start losing their fear of humans, which makes it more likely for people to cross paths with them.

The good thing is that there are things you can do to avoid or even survive these conflicts. 

We’ve mentioned sealing your food and minding your trash already. In addition, you should also keep your barbecue grills clean and compost piles closed.

If you do encounter a bear, do not turn your back on it or run away, but do not approach it either. Face it, make yourself look as big as possible, and make lots of noise.   

You could also use bear spray on it if it approaches you, and if it still attacks you, fight back instead of playing dead. 

About Rock Outfitters

Did all these black bear facts get you stoked? Why not get a unique shirt like this UCA Running Bear Sweatshirt to show your love of the state?

Here at Rock City Outfitters, we do special-design and custom-order tees that fit well and look great but do not cost much.

We can make you a black bear shirt that will show how much you support these animals. If you simply want something that looks cool, we could make that happen, too.


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