From: Benjamin Wermund, Reuters, MARFA, Texas
Published July 30, 2011 09:28 AM

Bears moving to the city, in Texas!

A historic Texas drought is driving bears into urban areas searching for food and water, the latest in a series of bizarre wildlife stories to come out of the deadly hot and dry weather across the nation.


Authorities have reported wayward razorbacks in Arkansas digging through flower beds, and bats changing their nightly flight patterns in Austin, Texas. High temperatures and stifling humidity in the Midwest have killed thousands of cattle in the Dakotas and Nebraska.

In far West Texas, the bears have been lumbering out of their normal habitats for more than one reason.

With fires scorching black bear ranges in the mountains of Far West Texas and Northern Mexico, and extreme drought making it difficult to find water and food, the usually reclusive beasts have been on the move this summer -- making their way into towns and cities increasingly.

"They're going to where they need to," said Louis Harveson, a Sul Ross State University professor of wildlife management who directs the school's Borderlands Research Institute. "They're scavengers -- they're basically an oversized raccoon."

And where bears need to go is where the food is, be it dumpsters, gardens or, as in one west Texas resident's case, bird feeders.

On a recent day, Penny Ferguson had returned from her 5:30 a.m. workout and, like any other morning, let her beagle out. The dog began barking wildly, and Ferguson ran outside to keep it from waking the neighbors.

A full-grown black bear on all fours, so big its shoulders reached her hips, was on her front lawn near the bird feeder. The bear ran out from under Ferguson's front window and casually loped across the street.

"It wasn't much bothered, but didn't like the noise," said Ferguson, whose home in Fort Davis, Texas, is nestled near Davis mountains southeast of El Paso. "We're in town, much further into town than I would ever expect bears to be coming."

There have been 13 black bear sightings in west Texas since May 31, according to Jonah Evans, a Texas Parks and Wildlife diversity biologist for the Trans-Pecos region in charge of tracking bear sightings in the area.

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