Are bears becoming aggressive at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA?

Tips for dealing with bear encounters on deer hunting trips.

Shortly after the Big Island at the Atchafalaya Delta WMA opened for deer season, there was a confrontation between a bow hunter and a black bear.

If you recall, back in August a black bear damaged one of my game cameras, and it was then that WMA manager Cassidy Lejeaune sent me a picture from one of the LDWF cameras showing a black bear.

Lejeaune said there were at least two bears on the island at that point.

According to various sources, the recent bear/hunter encounter began while the hunter was up in his tree stand. The hunter made a sound to try to frighten the bear away. After the bear refused to leave the area, the hunter began breaking branches and throwing them at the bear.

Eventually the bear disappeared from sight, but when the hunter descended from the tree the bear came back, causing the hunter to scurry back up the tree for safety.

This apparently happened twice.

The bear began huffing and jaw popping, causing the hunter a great amount of anxiety. Eventually the hunter was able to summon help and, when that help arrived, the bear finally ran off.

I spoke with Maria Davidson, LDWF’s Large Carnivore Program manager. She educated me on various aspects of what to look for when encountering a black bear.

Davidson said black bear attacks are broken into two categories: predatory and defensive.

Predatory attacks are when a bear comes and pulls you out of a tent, while defensive attacks involve either defending a cub or a food source.

In this instance, Davidson opined that the bear was most likely defending a food source – probably from a nut- or berry-producing tree.

Since this incident, signs have been posted by LDWF warning of aggressive black bears at the Delta and asking all hunters to equip themselves with a can of bear spray while hunting or scouting.

One of the bears has been photographed by a bow hunter on his game camera since the incident, and bears have been seen by other hunters on numerous occasions.

Davidson said the best thing to do when encountering a bear while up in a tree stand is to remain quiet and let the bear walk by.

If an encounter is on the ground and the bear does not run off (as it will in most cases), be prepared to use the bear spray, which can shoot a stream of potent pepper spray up to 30 feet. This will most definitely send the bear fleeing from your area.

Davidson said that if a bear is sprayed, not only will it flee but it is unlikely to return to that area.

Fear of bears should not cause hunters anxiety; however, just as with poisonous snakes and alligators, hunters should be aware of their surroundings and use recommended precautions, to ensure their safety.

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