Arkansas is home to many black bears, and because of their abundance in the state, it was also known as ‘The Bear State’.
However, in the 1930s, there had been overharvesting and natural habitats were cut down to make space for farmland, leaving only less than 50 black bears in the state.
Thankfully, they have made a comeback now!
The recovery of black bears in Arkansas significantly represents the most successful restoration of a large carnivore achieved ever.
According to an estimate, there are over 3000 black bears present in Arkansas forests.
Types of Bears in Arkansas
American black bears are living in Arkansas, which are the smallest type of bear in America.
These bears are fast runners and amazing tree climbers, living alone in heavily forested areas usually.
These bears are not exactly black, but are present in various shades of gray to brown to cinnamon to black.
A brown bear is still a black bear, when seen in Arkansas.
Bears are omnivores and eat depending on the place they live in.
They love to have berries, acorns and nuts but are also fairly opportunistic about their food.
This means that any tourists also attract them as their readily available food source.
Campers should remain specifically careful as they can develop a taste for human garbage as well.
To put it simply, it is not a great idea to feed the bears!
Do Black Bears Hibernate?
Black bears of Arkansas do not really hibernate, rather they hunker down in formations of rocks and hollow trees where they sleep extensively during winter.
This sleep is not true hibernation though and they notice whoever stumbles across their hole.
They come out of their hiding spaces for food when hungry and are very active during spring as it is also the time for raising cubs.
How Big are the Black Bears of Arkansas?
Male black bears found in Arkansas are usually between 130 to 50 pounds, while the smaller female ones are typically between 90 to 350 pounds.
They are around 3 feet tall at shoulder on all fours and around five to seven feet tall when standing upright.
Where can you find bears in Arkansas?
When you are at the Mount Magazine State Park, you shall find plenty of signs of a lookout for bears.
Most of the bears in this state are present in heavily forested, isolated and rugged areas.
They are found most likely in the Ozark highland areas, lower white river basin and Ouachita National Forest.
However, they are also now spreading in more areas of the state.
Are Arkansas Bears Dangerous?
Most black bears are very elusive and shy, and will avoid any direct contact with humans.
They are also likely to be more scared of you than you are of them but if they feel threatened, they can also be very dangerous.
A mother bear having cubs is the most dangerous black bear of all, so one should never approach them or a bear cub despite how cute they may be.
The mother may end up attacking you!
What to do in case of an Encounter with a Bear while Hiking?
Although bears rarely attack humans, you should still be very alert when close to a bear habitat.
Most of the popular hikes in Arkansas are well trafficked, and it is not likely for you to spot a bear in these trails.
But, if you are present in an isolated area you would definitely want to be aware of the bears.
Look out for any signs of bear including claws, tracks, droppings, bite or claw marks on trees or any evidence of digging.
Some things recommended doing when crossing an area inhabited by bears are:
• Hike with a group and stay together,
• Beware of the surroundings,
• Keep kids close and dogs on leash, or leave them home,
• Keep making human noises like whistling, singing or talking as you hike or walk through the woods to give signs to any bear close by to move out,
• In case of seeing a bear, be sure to give them space for an escape route,
• Back away slowly and do not run if you think a bear has seen you,
• You should carry a bear spray but be sure that it does not work unless the bear is close to you,
• If you have seen the bear before it notices or sees you, move away in the opposite direction slowly.
What to do when you see a bear in a Residential Area or a Community?
It has become more common to encounter bears in communities close to Arkansas in the recent years.
This usually happens in spring when cubs are involved.
Cubs are likely to wander away from their mothers and get lost, ending up in a residential area.
If you find a bear in your neighborhood, make sure you stay away from it even if it is a cub.
The next thing you must do is call the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and let them make a call if the bear is to be removed or will it return to the forest on its own.
You should keep bear resistant trash containers in future so that you do not end up encouraging bears to accustom to people.
Can Black Bear be Hunted in Arkansas?
It may perform tightly controlled black bear hunting in Arkansas to help stabilize their population.
Hunters should check the licensing and regulations for bear hunting with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.