Social media aids bear program

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

By Hunter Cloud
The Brookhaven Daily Leader

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Bear Program made strides this year by connecting with the public. Bear Program director Anthony Ballard Jr said social media has been a huge help to getting the word out about Mississippi’s native black bear population. 

Mississippi Black Bear Photos is a Facebook Group dedicated to the state’s population of bears. Ballard said the group averages 32 new members a day. MDWFP also urges the public to report bear sightings to but the Facebook group allows people to share information with fewer hoops to jump through. 

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He said the page launched in April 2023 and now has 7 thousand members sharing Game Camera pictures of bears. It was utilized when the department started trapping bears in Southwest Mississippi. 

“We didn’t have a lot of contacts. All of the trapping locations came from social media. People posted on the site and I could message them and ask if we could trap,” Ballard said. “We got a lot of collars in places that way and several bears have shown back up on the page. It is a good outlet to share that we caught a bear with a lot more in-depth information.” 

MDWFP held its first Bear Week last March and plans to do so again. Ballard said the social media outreach reached 600,000 people during Bear Week but the Mississippi Black Bear Facebook Page blew those numbers out of the water.

He added the raised awareness in the state helped bring in 199 new sightings in 2023. From 2016 to 2022, MDWFP averaged 52 sightings each year. He said the increase in sightings is less to do with more bears on the landscape but more public awareness. 

Ballard created a logo for the MDWFP Bear Program. He said he sketched it out on a piece of paper and then had a vendor make some items so he could thank the kind property owners who have helped them conduct research. 

“I wanted to recognize and give back to those people. I put all of these items together and distributed them to generous participants. They have helped make the program a success,” Ballard said.