Mississippi Black Bears Surviving High Water
While some species of wildlife in the Mississippi Delta are leaving their home ranges for higher ground, black bears are waiting it out. Flights conducted last week by Mississippi State University located 12 bears with radio collars in flooded portions of the Delta. All of the collared bears’ locations were within their normal home ranges and all were in heavily flooded areas. In fact, the four radio-collared female bears in Bolivar County were actually located inside the Mississippi River levee.
"Black bears are excellent swimmers, climbers, and foragers," said Brad Young, Black Bear Program Leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. "Black bears thrived throughout the delta long before the time of river gauges and levee systems. They are well suited for events such as this."
One key uncertainty however, is the effect that sustained high water will have on newborn cubs in the flooded region. From an early age black bear cubs are excellent climbers and swimmers although the early rising waters may have taken a toll. "We know that several dens were flooded out and the females were forced to evacuate while the cubs were still very young," says Young. "We won't know until water levels recede enough for us to go in and check on them."