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Bear Basics

Encountering a black bear in Oklahoma is a real possibility, a fact that still surprises many residents and visitors who never realized the animals are commonly seen in some parts of the state. Sightings are possible anywhere in the eastern half of the state and the western tip of the Panhandle. In the past few years, black bear sightings have been progressing farther west from the bears’ primary range in southeastern and east-central Oklahoma. In recent years, black bears have been seen in Ada and Wewoka, as far north as Grove, and as far west as Wayne. During summer months, the female bears, called sows, may have cubs in tow as they forage for food. The black bear's natural diet includes nuts, berries, grasses, insects, eggs, honey, small mammals, and carrion. But bears are opportunists and can be attracted by easy food sources provided by people, such as unsecured garbage or pet food left outdoors. For more information on how you can live responsibly with bears, visit

BearWise Flyers Bears in Oklahoma (PDF)

When and where are human-bear conflicts most likely to occur?

  • May is typically when bear reports begin coming in.  These reports are weighted toward yearling, male bears that have just been kicked away from their mom and are trying to avoid mature males, find their own home range, and keep their bellies full too.
  • June & July may see a small drop in the number of calls because natural soft mast like blueberries & blackberries is becoming abundant.
  • August is typically a high month for reports as soft mast sources diminish and grasses and other vegetation dry out or become unpalatable.
  • Typically the first time a bear encounters a human space is at night. However, if they are rewarded by food sources and do not receive any negative stimuli from the nighttime visits, they may become bolder and visit during the day.
  • Bears will typically visit human residences that are surrounded by easy-to-access escape cover.  This means sparsely populated areas nestled in the woods or directly adjacent to a large timber block.
  • Bears are most likely to risk exploring near a residence when there are attractants such as bird feeders, deer corn feeders, bee apiaries, pet food, etc.
 a map of Oklahoma showing where bears may be spotted by county

Bear Density Statewide

Orange: Areas of greatest concentration.

Green: Areas where bears are uncommon but have been sighted or where sightings are anticipated.



To minimize the chances of attracting bears, always make sure that garbage is kept in sealed containers and that pet food is not left outside. Never feed wild bears.

In areas where bears are common, you can help decrease the chances of a nuisance bear encounter by:

  • Rinsing outdoor trash containers with ammonia to eliminate odors.
  • Storing cooking grills inside, or cleaning them of food residue after each use.
  • Consider taking down backyard bird feeders for the summer and early fall, as the birds have plenty of wild food sources during those months.
  • Use electric fences to protect livestock, poultry, and bee apiaries. Keep them at least 50 yards away from wooded areas.

For more information on how to keep bears wild visit