Black Bear Population Likely on the Rise in Alabama

Aug 12, 2014

Black bears have been in the news lately as reports of sightings seem to be on the rise.  But whether that means there are more bears in Alabama is a big question.  Todd Steury, an Auburn professor who studies black bears, says there are likely more bears in the state.  That includes a population in the Mobile area, some in northwest Alabama and an influx in the northeast.  He says some of the reasons could be natural because male bears tend to wander far from home to settle.

Todd Steury: “So some of it is inevitably that there are male bears in Georgia that just head off looking for a place to settle down and they find some nice habitat in Alabama.  But some of it may be due to habitat loss or insufficient habitat.  You never really know for sure what the exact cause is.”

Part of Steury’s research involves setting traps that don’t catch the bears, but instead grab a bit of their hair that can be used for DNA analysis.  And he hopes they’ll be able to come up with an accurate black bear count using that method.  Steury says he wants to make sure there’s a place in the world for large carnivores.

Steury: “Black bears are a very interesting management problem.  You know a lot of people like black bears.  They’re neat, charismatic animals and people generally want there to be a place for black bears in our world.  They just don’t want them in their backyard.  So it’s very hard to manage for a species that people want, but at the same time don’t want.”

Click the audio clip above for the full interview with Todd Steury