Potential black bear distribution model for the Texas – Mexico border.

Habitat Suitability Model for Black Bear in the Chihahuan Desert of Texas and Northern Mexico

American black bears were extirpated from Texas and almost eradicated from Mexico by the 1960’s. However, they have proven to be a resilient species and have been naturally recolonizing portions of west Texas since the late 1980s.

Potential black bear distribution model for the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas.

We created computer models that predict the potential distribution of black bears in Texas and bordering states in Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas). To create these models, we used telemetry data from two studies conducted in west Texas: Big Bend National Park and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. We used software to develop models based on digital maps that included elevation, world climate data, Landsat images, and vegetation and soil maps. We also generated additional maps using the computer program ArcGIS including slope, measures of terrain ruggedness, and distance to rivers, roads, and cities.

We obtained two models: the first predicting black bear distribution in the entire Texas-Mexico study area and the second predicting distribution only within the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas. Our models predicted distribution within areas with conditions similar to those used to create them, namely, the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion and its surroundings (semiarid plains and prairies and dry tropical forests). These models predicted areas where black bears historically and currently have been recorded. These habitat suitability models represent potential black bear distribution that will aid researchers in adequately preparing for and conserving recolonizing black bears and their habitat in west Texas and northern Mexico.