ANIMALS, CLARION-LEDGER, MISSISSIPPI, OLE MISS, SPORTS
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Mississippi grins and bears it

77137-picture-40Ole Miss has a new mascot – the black bear. But does Mississippi have a bear population?

Clarion-Ledger reporter Justin Fritscher tells us we do, and the number has grown from 40 to 120 bears in the last decade, most of which reside in the Delta and southwest part of the state.

Fritscher says Mississippi once had a large bear population that lured President Theodore Roosevelt to Sharkey County in 1902 for a history-making bear hunt. The term “Teddy bear” was coined when the prez declined to shoot a black bear that his hosts captured and tied to a tree.

d9dca-3706-2Hunting and the spread of farmland in the 20th century caused the bear population to stagnate until there were few female bears left, but the girls eventually began to migrate back.

Ole Miss isn’t the only evidence of the state’s black bear heritage. Mississippi hosts The Great Delta Bear Affair each year in Rolling Fork, a festival to increase awareness of bear protection. Last year’s theme was Just Another Day in Bearadise.

b6bc9-gdbalogo2009The BEaR Education & Restoration Group of Mississippi, a black bear conservation group, has also been established to educate the public about the animals.

But will the black bear snuggle its way into the hearts of Ole Miss football fans? Only time will tell.

Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.

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