Black bears once ranged across North America, including the entire area of what is now Oklahoma, but by the early 1900s, sightings had become rare. Factors like land use changes, unregulated hunting and habitat fragmentation caused black bear numbers to eventually decline drastically.
In the late 1900s, however, black bears began making a comeback in Oklahoma after the successful reintroduction of black bears in the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. That initial relocation of about 250 bears from northern Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada, turned into thousands of bears in the mountains of Arkansas, which then expanded into southwest Missouri and eastern Oklahoma.
This successful restablishment of black bears led to a renewed black bear hunting season in Arkansas in 1980.
Today bears have a growing population in southeast Oklahoma and are an important part of the state's wildlife diversity. Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have collected biological data mainly from bear surveys and research projects.
BearWise.org - Information and solutions that help people, neighborhoods and communities prevent problems with bears.
Bear Density Statewide
Orange: Areas of greatest concentration.
Green: Areas where bears are uncommon, but have been sighted or where sightings are anticipated.
Upon sighting a bear, experts say the best thing to do is to remain calm and leave the area to allow the bear to move along on its own. If a bear is encountered at close range, experts offer these safety tips:
- Do not turn and run, as that might elicit a chase response in the bear.
- Stand and face the bear, holding out your arms or jacket to appear as large as possible.
- Try to retreat slowly, but don't turn yor back on the bear or block the bear’s escape route.
- If you cannot leave the area, make loud noises that could make the bear flee, such as yelling or banging on pots or pans.
Finally, anyone whose outdoor activities increase the chances of a bear encounter can carry bear spray with them. In the unlikely event a bear charges to attack, you should aggressively fight back against the bear, according to the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Do not attempt to “play dead” during a black bear attack, the agency says.
Report a Nuisance Bear
North of Interstate 40
- Senior Wildlife Biologist J.D. Ridge (918) 617-1113
- Wildlife Biologist Curt Allen at (918) 260-8959
South of Interstate 40
- Senior Wildlife Biologist Jeff Ford (918) 527-9918
- Wildlife Technician Matt Hensley (918) 260-3920
- Wildlife Technician Tres Phipps at (918) 527-9921
- Wildlife Biologist Weston Storer (806) 339-5175
- Wildlife Technician Cody Crisswell (806) 339-1487
Nuisance bears may also be reported to any local Game Warden.