Just about every hunting camp in bear territory has a tale or two to tell about a mischievous bruin finding its way into their feeder or trash bins. Over the years, those stories have expanded from the Ozark and Ouachita mountains into the southern half of the state, prompting Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists to keep a watchful eye on growing bear populations throughout Arkansas. As part of this expanded monitoring effort, biologists are asking hunters and outdoors enthusiasts to help record bear sightings through a simple online survey on iNaturalist.org.
The Arkansas Bear Survey listed on iNaturalist provides credible observation and or photo documentation of black bear locations within the state to help biologists expand their collection of data.
Myron Means, large carnivore program coordinator for the AGFC, says game camera footage as well as increased awareness of bears has enabled more public participation in data collection in recent years.
“We receive images and reports of bears in feeders all the time, and we know the bears are expanding into new areas,” Means said. “This survey will help us gather location information as well as some basic biological information such as sex, recruitment and relative age class.”
Participating in the survey requires a free account with iNaturalist.org, which takes less than 5 minutes to set up. Once you have established an account, you may enter sightings as you come across bears in The Natural State.
“Ideally, the best information will be photos that are accurately date stamped and in electronic format where they can be uploaded to the iNaturalist.org website for further review,” said Mark Hooks, regional biologist supervisor for the AGFC at the Monticello Regional Office. “Actual observation information without a picture is also useful, particularly if you can provide the approximate location and date of that observation.”
For more information on how to participate in this survey, contact Hooks at 877-367-3559.