Wild Black Bear Sightings Increasing in Texas

Recent sightings of black bears in the western parts of the Texas Hill Country could indicate the dry hot conditions in the Lone Star State are causing wildlife to venture into wider migration patterns.

From April through June, rare bear sightings have occurred near Carta Valley, Barksdale, Camp Wood, west of Ingram, south of Tarpley, Asherton, Alpine, Fort Davis and Mount Livermore.

On June 20th, a black bear was sighted swimming near the shoreline of Lake Amistad.

In the past year, bears have also been observed not only on the lake, but near Fort Stockton, north of Laredo, and in nearby regions.

While no one is sure how many bears currently live in Texas, experts agree that wildfires in Mexico, as well as drought conditions in other regions, have likely caused bears to migrate to new areas, including many parts of Texas.

Michael Janis, Trans-Pecos district leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), said dry conditions are likely sending bears looking for food. Breeding season also moved bears around.

The conservation efforts in bordering states over the last 20 years have also led to bears crossing back into Texas, especially during the summer mating season, according to TPWD.

Most of these animals wandering further into Texas are young, transient males in search of food and other bears. Males have much larger home ranges than females, and sub-adults can travel many miles to set up a new one.

Click to read bear tips for hunters, campers, hikers and homeowners

To those not aware of bears, some people become quite alarmed when they hear about sightings. However, out of approximately 36,000 people in the U.S. who are bitten annually by wildlife, black bears rank 5th behind rodents, venomous snakes, skunks, and foxes respectively.

In West Texas where Big Bend National Park (BBNP) has had more than 6,592 bear/human encounters since 1950, only 2.5 percent of those encounters were classified as aggressive interactions. Most of those occurred when the bear made contact with property containing human food. There has never been a black bear attack recorded in BBNP.

When Border Patrol agents discovered a young black bear in a tree in north Laredo last July, it likely came from Mexico, noted Eric Garza, wildlife biologist with TPWD.

Not long after,  residents of SpinTech – Myers Ranch caught a strange image on a game camera. Maybe it was an overgrown wild hog, but most believe it was a bear:

TPWD is recording more road kills of black bears between Laredo and Zapata over the decade. Garza notes they were likely males dispersing from Mexico also.

“Zapata itself probably hasn’t seen any historic sightings simply because of the lake. It’s hard for them to swim across the lake, especially when it’s up,” said Garza. “This particular animal probably came across where the water is a lot lower. Not where it’s a lake but where it’s still a river.”

In a 2011 Starr County encounter, Garza notes the bear became habituated to residents, picking up scraps of food and eating out of trash cans. In those instances the bears need to be trapped and relocated away from humans, pet food and trash.

“The first thing we need to know is any conflicts between black bears and people can be avoided very, very easily,” Garza explained. “And the easiest way to avoid any conflicts is to make sure and not leave trash out for bears to get into, and really any wildlife to get into. Don’t leave pet food out. Bring that in and secure it. Don’t leave small livestock animals like rabbits or poultry.”

Late 2021 and early 2022, TPWD biologists were monitoring multiple black bear sightings near the North Double Diamond community south of Alpine.

It is believed the bear may displaying behavior typical of hyperphagia (excessive or extreme hunger). Reports suggested that the bear were attracted to and searching for easily accessible food sources (i.e. pet food, wildlife feeders, livestock feed, etc.). 

In June, 2021, Big Bend National Park camper Valerie King took photos of a black bear in the Basin Campground:

TPWD indicates anyone encountering a black bear in a camping area should immediately deploy aversive conditioning by creating loud noises (shout, handclap, air horns, car alarm, sirens, or bang pots and pans) to startle the bear. Once the bear leaves, report the encounter to your District Biologist or TPWD Game Warden.

It is critical that the Department is able to monitor any on-going situations with full extent of known black bear encounters. 

In the 1800s, black bear lived through every ecosystem in Texas but has long been hunted down and migrated away from settlements and eventually, cities. In 2009, a black bear that wandered onto a Mernard County (Central Texas) cattle ranch was the first ever confirmed in this century in that part of the state, according to Capt. Alan Teague, a TPWD game warden.

Click to read bear tips for hunters, campers, hikers and homeowners

A Liberty County judge reputedly slaughtered 200 bears in the late 19th century, a pursuit that earned Lewis Hightower the handle “the Bear-Hunting Judge,” according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

“I practice law for recreation,” Hightower would say, “and hunt bear for a livin’.”

By the 1950s, black bears were eradicated from Texas, experts say.

The state made bear hunting illegal in 1983. That decade, they began crossing from northern Mexico into the southern reaches of West Texas.

For the past 20 years, a small population has bred there, mostly in the region’s rugged mountains. Today, some biologists believe there may be as many as 100.

But bears in Texas recently have been on the move, staging an unprecedented return to regions such as the Edwards Plateau, Piney Woods and South Texas Plains, according to Nathan Garner, another TPWD biologist.

The True Story of Smokey the Bear

Texas lists the black bear as threatened. The penalty for shooting one is a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of $500, plus a civil restitution of $11,907.50.

One of the most bizzare encounters was in 2017, when a black bear was sighted in a neighborhood between New Braunfels and Spring Branch. The alleged black bear, weighing as much as 350 lbs., ran in front of a vehicle in the early morning hours.

According to TPWD, there were 61 Black Bear sightings in 14 counties in 2018-2019. State mammologist Jonah Evans said sightings tend to increase in the fall because the bears are foraging food and trying “fatten up” before hibernating for the winter.

Transient bears from New Mexico are also occasionally reported in the Panhandle counties of Dallam, Hartley and Oldham, according to TPWD district leader Brad Simpson.

bear
The communities south of Alpine, Texas are on a Neighborhood Bear Watch. (courtesy: Texas Parks and Wildlife – Trans-Pecos Wildlife District)

A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.

Of special note is this quote:

“We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88 percent of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92 percent of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.”

🔹Black bears mate during the months of June and July. This might account for some of the sightings in the Texas Hill Country, as bears travel to find a mate during the summer months.

🔹State biologists believe that female black bears in Texas hibernate while males do not.

🔹The young are born in January or February, while the mother is “hibernating.” She normally gives birth to two-to-three cubs every two years.

LOUISIANA MIGRATION

🔹Louisiana Black Bear sightings have been increasing in recent years so it’s possible they are making a comeback in Eastern Texas too.

🔹Louisiana is home to the Louisiana Black Bear, a subspecies of of the American Black Bear. There’s an estimated 750-1000 bears living in the state, but they can also be found in the neighboring states of Texas, Mississippi, and possibly even Southern Arkansas.

🔹Aside from the Louisiana Bear, both the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear are found in western Texas in low numbers and are also on the state endangered species list.

2018-2021 sightings

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NEW MEXICO MIGRATION

🔹The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish estimates that there are approximately 5,000-6,000 Black Bears living in all 14.6 million forested acres of New Mexico. There have been strict hunting regulations in place since 1927 in the state to help control the population of Black Bears in the state.

🔹In the early 20th century Grizzly Bears were common in the state, but now only the American Black Bear remain. They are also the state animal of New Mexico.

ARKANSAS MIGRATION

🔹Black Bears in Arkansas thrive in three places; the Ozark Highlands area, the Ouachita National Forest, and the lower White River basin. Pre-settlement there was thought to be over 50,000 bears in Arkansas, but dwindled down to just 50 bears in the 1930s. Thanks to conservation efforts and the importation of Black Bears from other areas, Arkansas is believed to have over 5,000 Black Bears now.

CAN INJURE WHEN PROVOKED

“The Black Bear is a stocky, large animal, one of the largest mammals in North America. Adults reach a length of 5 to 6 feet, height at the shoulder of 2 to 3 feet, and weigh 200-300 pounds,” notes information from Texas Park and Wildlife Department. “Although called a ‘black’ bear, colors can range from black to the occasional cinnamon brown. Front claws are generally longer than hind claws. The fur is long and coarse. Although appealing and generally harmless, Black Bears can injure humans when provoked and should be treated with caution.”

At least two subspecies of Black Bear are thought to occur in Texas: the Mexican Black Bear and the New Mexico Black Bear. Both are found in West Texas in desert scrub or woodland habitats within scattered mountain ranges, predominantly the Chisos and Guadalupe Mountains. Both subspecies are state-listed as endangered in Texas.

Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Wildlife Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist, offers some advice about how to co-exist with black bears.

“Most bears that wander into a residential area will quickly retreat to their natural habitat, particularly if no food source is around,” Olfenbuttel said. “Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.”

BearWise has six Basics the public can use to prevent potential conflicts and live responsibly with bears:

• Never feed or approach a bear. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs.

• Secure food, garbage and recycling. Place trash outside as late as possible on the morning of trash pick-up — not the night before.

• Remove bird feeders when bears are active. Birdseed, other grains and hummingbird feeders have high calorie content making them very attractive to bears.

• Never leave pet food outdoors.

• Clean and store grills.

• Alert neighbors to bear activity.

“While these young bears (usually May-August), typically males, may appear to be wandering aimlessly around, they are not necessarily lost,” Olfenbuttel said. “Most are simply exploring their new surroundings and will move on, particularly if they are left alone and there is no food around.”

Unlike brown bears, black bears are omnivorous creatures that rarely pose a threat to humans, pets, or livestock. Like any large mammal, however, humans must take steps to be aware and coexist with black bears.

Black bears diet is very much like a raccoon’s.

🔹Up to 80 percent of their diet is plant matter, and they often scavenge the rest from carcasses of dead animals.

🔹In many circumstances, they will hunt for insects and worms for the “meat based” part of their diet.

🔹They have been known to kill larger mammals and even livestock. This is occurs mostly during late spring and early summer, when bears become active after hibernating, and juveniles “leave home.” This is when food requirements are high, and bears will find the most nutritious food they can.

🔹If there is a lack of fruits, berries, and other plant matter, they may feed on other animals. 

Signs of black bears 

If you suspect bears in your area, pay careful attention to signs such as, tracks, scat, and territorial markings on trees. Although you may not see the animal, the evidence of their presence is usually clear. Take pictures of suspected bear sign using a ruler or other standard item for scale and send them to your local biologist for interpretation. 

Bear tracks stand out and are unlike any other you might encounter. Bears use their teeth and claws to mark trees or other surfaces to mark territory.

Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.
Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.Hardin County News

BEAR ENCOUNTERS

If you encounter a bear, TPWD offers this advice:

  • If a bear regularly visits your deer stand, scare it with rocks, a slingshot or air horn.
  • If you encounter a bear at close range, talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact
  • Do not run. Running can trigger a bear’s chase instinct.
  • Stand your ground and raise your arms if a bear approaches you, making yourself appear larger. Yell at the bear to scare it off.
  • Fight back aggressively with anything available if attacked. Let bears know that you are not an easy prey. Do not play dead.

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How to Prepare for Bears in the Wild and at Home

HUNTERS, CAMPERS, HIKERS & HOMEOWNERS BEWARE

HUNTING

Hunters must remember that areas where they leave game animal remains will attract bears.

🔹This carrion is an easy meal that bears will eagerly consume.

🔹No matter what time of year you hunt, it is possible you could encounter a bear. Although contact is minimal in the winter, due to hibernation, be aware of your surroundings, especially in remote locations that may contain dens with sleeping bears.

🔹Bear-proofing wildlife feeding stations, such as deer feeders, can be difficult. Because hunters want game to have access to feed, but want to exclude black bears, the best options involve limiting access. Unless they are protected by an electric fence that deer can jump, gravity feeders should likely be removed in favor of spin-cast feeders.

🔹The base of spin-cast feeders should be at least 10 feet off the ground, and suspended from a cross-member that is least 4 feet from the post that supports it. Alternatively, hunters may electrify tripod spin-cast or gravity feeders, as well as providing electric fencing.

🔹Electric fencing may be permanent, similar to systems designed for livestock, or be portable, such as “back-country bear fencing” often used to secure camp sites. These portable systems are available from many outdoor companies. They are powered by D-cell batteries and use lightweight posts and wire. Whether suspending feed or electrifying, take care to prevent damage and the loss of feed.

CAMPING

🔹Campers should collect trash nightly and hang it high enough from a tree or other structure that a bear cannot reach it, or climb to it. Ten feet off ground level and four feet from any branches is generally sufficient.

🔹Sweet-smelling items such as perfumes, insect repellants, and candy attract bears.

🔹The smell of camp cooking can also attract bears. It is wise to locate your cooking site 100 yards from your sleeping area. Even the smell of food on clothes can attract bears, so change clothes before sleeping if you cook for the camp.

🔹Coolers of food are easy targets for bears—keep them inside vehicles or otherwise inaccessible. Although some coolers are rated as bear-safe, black bears will still cause damage trying to get in them.

HIKING

🔹Hikers should be noisy in areas where black bears are present.

🔹A startled bear is a dangerous bear, and will have the same reaction as any animal when frightened. Although they might flee, they might also display defensive behaviors such as bluff charges or teeth clacking. This is especially possible for a female with cubs.

Bear-proofing around the house 

Human-bear relations are most problematic around private homes.

🔹Bears, like raccoons, are opportunistic omnivores who enjoy human garbage. Homeowners should minimize exposing garbage to bears.

🔹A good first step is to secure trash cans with certified bear-proof covers. You can also contact your waste disposal company to request that they upgrade community dumpsters to be bear-proof.

🔹Minimize areas where you dump cooking grease, scraps, and reduce access to compost piles. 

Black Bears of East Texas. Photos provided by the East Texas Black Bear Task Force.

🔹Other food sources include bird feeders and other wildlife feed, fallen fruit from trees, pet foods, and barbecue pits.

🔹Wood piles attract rodents, which can be a food source. Bears will quickly assess these sources come to them for food. If you choose to feed wildlife in “bear country,” move the feed frequently to prevent bears from becoming habituated to one area. 

🔹It may be surprising, but a closed door, high window, or low wall often will not deter bears. Livestock and pet feed stored in outbuildings are easy, high-energy sources of nutrition for black bears. 

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How are the SOB (Soros-Obama-Biden) Gas Prices Working Out For You?

Forget the propaganda churned out by the corporate news media, here are the facts about the SOB (Soros-Obama-Biden) oil and gas policies designed to socialize America towards control via “The Great Reset, and New World Order (NOW).

SOROS-OBAMA

🔹The day before Barack Obama was inaugurated regular gasoline prices across the USA were $1.87 per gallon.

🔹When Obama left the White House the cost of gas was $4.22 per gallon.

🔹Immediately upon taking office he rescinded leases for oil shale production and expedited the failed Solendro energy deal while stalling other new energy production.

🔹He urged the Senate to pass a new higher energy tax.

🔹To George Soros’ delight, Obama opposed bills to unlock American energy resources, stopped drilling and leasing through new bureaucratic hurdles, and rejected the Keystone pipeline.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

2018– The United States became the world’s top crude oil producer under President Donald J. Trump and maintained the lead position through 2020.

April 7, 2020- Americans, with the leadership of President Trump in the White House, were enjoying low gasoline prices at the pump. $1.79 per gallon

BIDEN’S BUILD BACK BETTER

Jan. 21, 2021– Biden inaugurated and immediately cancels Keystone XL pipeline. Gas is at $2.09 gallon

Jan. 27, 2021– Biden halts new oil and gas leases. $2.35 gallon

Feb. 19, 2021– Biden rejoins Paris Climate Agreement. $2.48 gallon

May 7, 2021– Biden makes 30% of land off limits to oil and gas. $2.64 gallon

June 1, 2021– Biden halts drilling in ANWR. $3.07 gallon

June 30, 2021– Nancy Pelosi’s Congress reverses President Donald J. Trump’s natural gas regulations. $3.12 gallon

Oct. 7, 2021– Biden reverses Trump’s NEPA regulations. $3.27 gallon.

Oct. 29, 2021– Biden’s Department of Interior introduces “Social Cost of Carbon.” $3.43 gallon

Nov. 15. 2021- Biden begins moratorium on drilling in Chaco Canyon. $3.80 gallon

Feb. 24, 2022- Because Russia invades Ukraine, suddenly Biden Administration and Big Oil decides gas should be over $4 a gallon. $4.02 gallon.

March 1, 2022– Biden releases oil from US Strategic Petroleum Reserve again. $4.13 gallon

March 21, 2022- Biden’s SEC proposes Anti-oil Rule. $4.24 gallon

May 12, 2022– Biden cancels all remaining lease sales. $4.48 gallon.

June 12, 2022– Price of regular gas reaches all-time historical high according to AAA. State averages  range from $6.43 a gallon in California to $4.52 in Mississippi. $5.01 gallon

Recently, Senators Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Roger Marshall, R-Kansas; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Bill Cassidy, R-La.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. wrote a letter to Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm demanding she must comply with the law requiring her agency to disclose the number of jobs lost when Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. 

“At the time of its closure, the Keystone XL pipeline project was already under construction and employed more than 1,500 workers,” the letter read. “By the end of 2021, the Keystone XL pipeline was projected to provide approximately 11,000 jobs.”

“The closure erased thousands of real, high-paying jobs and approximately $800 million in wages,” it continued. “Significant prospective spending for rural communities and small businesses, as well as tax revenue for local schools and public safety, disappeared with the stroke of a pen.” 

“The Keystone XL pipeline was a critical investment for U.S. energy security and job creation,” Sen. Risch said in a statement. “Why the administration made the decision to prioritize Russia’s workforce and energy sector over the United States is beyond me. The Department of Energy must report back on this significant domestic loss.” 

How is the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris “Build Back Better” agenda working out for you?

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Lightning and Thunderstorm Preparation and Safety

Which states are the five most prone to lightning strikes in America?

Lightning is a leading cause of injury and death from weather-related hazards. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.

Avg. # of days per year of thunderstorms

The top six most prone states (in this order) are Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma.

Thunderstorms are dangerous storms that include lightning and can:

IF YOU ARE UNDER A THUNDERSTORM WARNING, FIND SAFE SHELTER RIGHT AWAY

  • When thunder roars, go indoors!
  • Move from outdoors into a building or car.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Do not use landline phones.

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN A THUNDERSTORM THREATENS

Prepare NOW

  • Know your area’s risk for thunderstorms. In most places, they can occur year-round and at any hour.
  • Create an emergency plan so that you and your family know what to do, where to go, and what you will need to protect yourselves from the effects of a thunderstorm.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Identify nearby, sturdy buildings close to where you live, work, study, and play.
  • Cut down or trim trees that may be in danger of falling on your home.
  • Consider buying surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances, and electronic devices.

Survive DURING

  • When thunder roars, go indoors. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of thunderstorms. Be ready to change plans, if necessary, to be near shelter.
  • When you receive a thunderstorm warning or hear thunder, go inside immediately.
  • If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines.
  • Protect your property. Unplug appliances and other electric devices. Secure outside furniture.
  • If boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately.
  • If necessary, take shelter in a car with a metal top and sides. Do not touch anything metal. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid flooded roadways. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
Golf course green hit by lightning

Be Safe AFTER

  • Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding.
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.
  • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

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Tent Camping Checklist for Couples by Clever Journeys

This is our go-to list for tent camping as a couple. It can be modified per trip –family, friends, ages, activities (toys, rafts, hunting, skiing, etc.).

We always have protection, a jack, spare, fix-a-flat, jumper cables, portable battery starter, small power unit with lights, stored energy, electricity, etc. in our vehicle.

No two people are the same when it comes to planning a camping trip. What is important to one person may not matter to another when it comes to camping gear. One of my sons prefers to go ultralight and another brings practically everything he can when they camp. As a family, we tend to bring more items. All this to say, there is no right or wrong answer to what you bring on your camping trip.

The Camp

🔹Tent (Coleman Sunbeam 7’×9′ 4-person) & accessories (stakes, bungi cords with hooks, rain roof, bottom footprint tarp)

🔹Mats (outside door, inside door)

🔹Sleeping bags

🔹Sleeping pads

🔹Pillows

🔹Electric extension cord

🔹Lighting: solar lights, head lamp, flashlights, lantern, extra batteries

🔹Camping chairs

Eating

🔹Cooler (We love our soft-sided 4-gallon capacity Kodi cooler from H-E-B Foods/Drugs)

🔹Camping utensils, plates, pans, cups

🔹Camping stove

🔹Can opener

🔹Charcoal &/or fire wood

🔹Insulated water bottles

🔹Matches

🔹Cutting board & knife

🔹Coffee maker

Hygiene

🔹Biodegradable wet wipes

🔹Shampoo & conditioner

🔹Hand sanitizer

🔹Towels & wash cloths

🔹Soap

🔹Deodorant

🔹Rash prevention/lotion

🔹Toothbrushes & toothpaste

🔹Lip balm

🔹Toilet paper

🔹Combs/brushes

🔹Shaving gear

Other

🔹First Aid kit

🔹Rx, prescriptions & supplements

🔹Campsite Reservation Copy

🔹Sunscreen & bug repellent

🔹Trash bags

🔹Duct tape

🔹Mallot

🔹Clothes pins & clothes line cord

🔹Rope

🔹Binoculars

🔹Dry bag (store electronics, etc in event of rain)

🔹Tool bag. Minimum: hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, multi-tool, folding shovel/saw, tin-snips, axe-hatchet, tent repair kit, tent pole repair sleeve

🔹Small fire extinguisher

🔹Emergency (solar/handcrank) weather radio

🔹Travel alarm clock

🔹Travel mirror

🔹GPS

🔹Cell phones

🔹Books, cards, games…

🔹Portable butane heater with extra filled tanks (in cold weather)

🔹Tent fan in warm weather. (We also have a portable “air cooler” we fill with ice cubes if it is too hot).

Clothing

🔹Bandana

🔹Flip flops or sandals

🔹Rain ponchos

🔹Swim/water/shower shoes

🔹Socks (wool or synthetic)

🔹Hiking boots/shoes, sneakers

🔹Hat

🔹Sunglasses

🔹Gloves

🔹Shirts, Jackets, Sleepwear, Pants, Shorts, Swimwear

🔹Underwear

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HEB FOOD DRUGS

The True Story of Fire Fighting Smokey Bear

He is not Smokey ‘The’ Bear and Other Fun Facts

The start of World War II meant that many firefighters and other able-bodied men were deployed, leaving communities to manage wildfires themselves. .

The head of the Forest Service at that time, Lyle F. Watts, decided to attack the wildfire problem by educating the public about their role in fire prevention. Watts invited the Ad Council to join the Forest Service in this new ad campaign.Watts and team soon realized that they needed a symbol or character to represent their fire prevention campaign. A forest animal would be ideal.

The Disney Studios offered one of their characters to be the “face” of the fire prevention plan. The movie, Bambi, enjoyed widespread popularity at the time, so the deer Bambi represented the original ad campaign—but Disney’s licensing contract lasted just one year.

Seeing an overwhelmingly successful first year, Watts and his team chose a bear to replace Bambi.

Two decades before, on a July morning in 1922, a case of magnesium powder exploded in a warehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. The resulting fire was devasting and claimed the life of a heroic firefighter named “Smokey” Joe Martin.

On August 9, 1944, the first Smokey Bear poster appeared. The bear was named in honor of “Smokey” Joe, and his first piece of public service artwork depicted the animal in his iconic hat, dousing a fire with a bucket of water.

A historic Smokey the Bear poster

Artist Albert Staehle painted this first Smokey Bear poster.

The ‘50s and ‘60s brought Smokey’s “ABC” campaign. This was a national push to educate the public about wildfire prevention in three easy steps, and it was broadcast to American homes through radio and TV spots.

Smokey 2

It wasn’t long before more posters of Smokey appeared. The bear gained widespread popularity. Soon Smokey Bear was featured on everything from comic books to toys. He was an undisputed success.

A real Smokey Bear

In 1950, a wildfire burned in New Mexico’s Capitan Mountains. Firefighters there found a young bear cub clinging to a tree branch. Firefighters presumed the cub climbed the tree to escape the raging fire. The little bear was alive, but severely burned. Firefighters rescued the cub and aptly named him Smokey.

News of a real Smokey Bear soon spread across the country. When Smokey had sufficiently recovered from his ordeal, he was moved to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he continued to play a role in educating people about fire prevention.

To handle all of his fan mail–up to 13,000 letters a week–the U.S. Postal Service set up his own personal zip code, 20252, for his area in the zoo. The zip code was decommissioned in 1994, but fortunately brought back in honor of Smokey’s 70th birthday.

When the real Smokey Bear died, his body was taken back to the Capitan Mountains for burial in the State Historical Park.

Smokey carried his “only you can prevent forest fires” message into the early 2000s and placed the responsibility on us all to be careful around the campfire. Additionally, the shift in the use of “forest fires” to “wildfires” in Smokey’s messaging is present, as well.

Today, new Public Service Announcements to educate the public on different ways that wildfires are caused, including hot coals, dragging chains, and burning debris. Smokey’s wildfire prevention message was already resonating with audiences—now, they just needed actionable steps to take.

Today’s Smokey Bear

Other Smokey Bear facts

  • The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest-running Public Service Advertisement campaign in U.S. history.
  • In 1953, the Ideal Toy Company made a Smokey Bear doll. Included with the doll was a card that when mailed back gave children an official “Junior Forest Ranger” identification card. Within two years, over half a million kids had applied and received the unofficial honor.

  • Since its development in the 1940s, it’s estimated that the Smokey Bear ad campaign has reduced the number of acres lost to wildfires by 15.6 million annually.
  • Smokey does not have a middle name. (It’s Smokey Bear. Not Smokey “The” Bear.) A song about the forest icon added “The” to his name in order to make the lyrics and melody sync better. 

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.
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Clever Journeys in San Antonio and Texas Hill Country

A trip to San Antonio, the “Alamo City” isn’t just about the destination. The true beauty of this region can be found in the journey through and around it. Rolling hills, natural springs, meandering rivers and, come springtime, the beauty includes vibrantly painted landscapes of wildflowers up and down the highways and backroads.

As you head northwest west toward Boerne, Kerrville and  Fredericksburg, you’ll begin to see the landscape open up before you, with rolling tree-covered hills, exposed limestone cliffs and an array of colorful wildflowers.

In this area, known as the Hill Country, you’ll also find Johnson City, home to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Here you can tour the family ranch and view artifacts such as his boyhood home and first school. This is also the final resting place of LBJ, our 36th president.

Johnson City is also the heart of the Hill Country wine region. Why not take a detour and sample some of the best wineries in Texas on the 290 Wine Trail? Ab Astris Winery and Kuhlman Cellars are a couple of our favorites.

In the quaint town of Fredericksburg, you’ll want to visit two unique museums: the National Museum of the Pacific War, dedicated to those who served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, and the Pioneer Museum, honoring the lives of the early German settlers of this region.

Heading back south toward San Antonio, a worthwhile scenic route offers serene Hill Country views through wildflower-lined back roads.

Look for Luckenbach. It’s a stretch to call it a town, but for country music fans, it’s a mecca. It was made famous in the ’70s by outlaw country musicians like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. You can still regularly catch country acts performing on the outdoor stage.

Continue on the backroads south around Canyon Lake on your way toward New Braunfels. Just outside the city, stop at Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall, Gruene Hall.

Families will love a stop at Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but check their schedule online as they’re open seasonally. Families will also love exploring the vast caves at Natural Bridge Caverns and the exotic animals at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch about 20 minutes west of New Braunfels.

Back in San Antonio. The Alamo is the Spanish mission made famous as a battle site in the war for Texas independence. But it is just one of five historic Spanish missions in San Antonio that make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other four comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. All five offer an incredible look back at the history and culture that still influence this proud city.

Just 10 minutes north of downtown, you will find the revitalized historic Pearl district. This area used to be the home of the Pearl Brewery. Today, you can walk the Pearl to explore trendy shops, delicious dining and even a weekend farmers market. Nearby is Brackenridge Park, Witte Muesum, Children’s DoSeum, Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Zoo.

Dating back to 1919 – and receiving major updates throughout the years – the Japanese Tea Garden features a lush year-round garden and a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with Koi. The garden’s entrance is punctuated by a moon gate created by a Mexican artist renowned for crafting wood-look concrete sculptures. Free admission.

When mean it when we say the River Walk is a must to experience. One of the nations’—most famous attractions is the vibrant River Walk. Restaurants and shops line the banks of the San Antonio River, which you can explore on foot or take a boat tour on one of the colorful river barges.

Sightseeing, shopping, food, and fun. All on this world-renowned 15-mile urban waterway. The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a San Antonio treasure and the largest urban ecosystem in the nation.

Tucked quietly below street level and only steps away from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city. Explore by foot along the river’s walking path or jump aboard a river barge for a ride and guided tour. In the heart of downtown, explore nearby attractions like the Alamo, the King William Historic District and more. Or, shop local favorites along the river’s Museum Reach at the historic Pearl.

A good way to see downtown is by catching a ride with City Sightseeing San Antonio’s double-decker buses for tours and curbside drop-off to many of thw downtown attractions and landmarks.

If you missed the rodeo and February, be sure to end the night at Tejas Rodeo Company, where they hold live rodeos every Saturday night from March – November. You can also eat like a Texan at Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon and enjoy fun, and entertainment for all. 

If you are staying downtown, don’t miss Mi Tierra Café and Panaderia is the perfect place for a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast, with everything from huevos rancheros to breakfast tacos.  Schilo’s has been serving German-Texan fare since 1917 and is the oldest restaurant in San Antonio.  You can’t go wrong when you order the Pioneer pancakes or biscuits. In the mood for some schnitzel and homemade root beer? Check Schilo’s out for lunch. 

From this are you can take a walk through La Villita Historic Arts Village, San Antonio’s first neighborhood. Today La Villita is a cultural hub, home to local artisans, shops and restaurants. Walk down the river to the Briscoe Western Art Museum for stories of the cowboy, the vaquero, Native Americans and the western landscape. 

San Antonio also features theme park giants- Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld & Aquatica San Antonio.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

These Vintage Trailer Transformations Will Leave You Smiling

We love to travel and especially enjoy roadtrips across America. Since we’ve been married in 2019, the two of us–along with Mr. Beefy, our “King of the Hill Country” canine–have been to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland.

We also enjoyed Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia…and we’ve just started.

Both of us have peculiar little quirks of interests, individually and those we share: museums, historical sites, camping, amusement parks, birdwatching, theater, concerts and roadside attractions.

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One in particular is viewing restored pieces of history, especially trains, planes and automobiles. When it comes to restoring things from the past, such as an antique or junk someone left behind, there’s plenty of room to let the imagination run wild.

Being Baby Boomers, it’s not so hard to enjoy seeing what others have done by restoring vintage travel trailers. We hope these make you smile.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Essential Camping Safety Tips for RVers and Motorcyclists

Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and to ensure your trips are safe, here are tips uniquely for RVers and motorcyclists.

RVers and motorcyclists should plan out all escape routes and discuss them with (RV occupants) and fellow campers when traveling. Ensure everyone is informed of the survival plans.

Basic Camping Safety

🔹Keep watch on children! You are responsible for the safety of your children. Make sure you know where your kids are and what they are doing.

🔹Be aware of the natural surroundings. There may be plants with thorns or stickers.

🔹You are a visitor in wildlife’s home. Keep a safe distance from wild animals. Although they may look cute, they are wild and can carry diseases.

🔹Never feed the wildlife! Feeding wildlife can encourage bad behavior by animals and is against park regulations.

🔹Be careful with fire. Never leave a fire unattended and be sure your campfire is out when you break camp.

🔹Axes, knives and saws are useful tools, but be sure you know how to properly use them.

RV Safety Tips

🔹Have more than one fire extinguisher and insure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Make sure they have the right amount of pressure according to the gauge. In fact, anytime you use an extinguisher, it should be recharged or replaced to avoid future problems.

🔹Watch where you park. Heat from underneath your RV can catch grass on fire.

🔹Never use any stove or cooking appliance for heating space. Smaller space means less ventilation and the greater the chance of a fire.

🔹Keep any combustible items like paper towels or dish cloths away from the stove and remain near the stove when cooking.

🔹Install and inspect smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Test alarms every two-weeks to ensure they work properly. This is a fast and easy test that can save lives and property.

🔹A dragging brake line can cause friction. This can easily be ignited by dripping brake fluid. Make sure to check the pressure in your tires regularly and spot check at every stop.

🔹Always be aware of your surroundings.  Be aware of who is camping next to you, across from you and behind you. Pay attention to what is happening.  Know when the weather is changing and who is moving about around your RV.

🔹Always lock your camper when you leave it.  Even if you are just going to the laundry room or the bathhouse in the campground.

🔹Use window locks so your RV can’t be accessed by the sliding windows.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

🔹Pack safe. Keep the center of gravity of your bike in mind and make sure the heavy items are lower down.  below the COV of your bike. Even up the balance on each side of the bike – don’t put all the heavy stuff in one saddlebag! If traveling solo, pack your gear so it acts as a backrest to support your lower back.

🔹Make sure nothing is touching the exhausts. Use the most effective ratchet straps, bungees or cargo nets to secure the load and carry additional items on top for easy access.

🔹Pack light. Space is limited so be efficient and don’t fill up every available space. Seasoned motorcycle campers overwhelmingly pack light and trim luggage down to the minimum. You can always buy stuff along the way.

 🔹Pack efficiently. Determine what you really need, and pack accordingly. Pack your tent and sleeping bag last so they are first things you unpack at camp site, and make sure the things you’ll need on the ride – sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproofs and maps – are easily accessible.

🔹A tent. If tenting, use one with a waterproof floor or groundsheet and take metal stakes to fix it down and a driver. Pick the size of tent according to your needs – even if you are travelling solo, a two or even three-man tent will give you the space you need to hold your clothes and luggage as well as you, and won’t take up much more space than a one-man tent. Vestibules allow you to strip off wet rain gear and store wet luggage without getting the inside of your tent wet. Make sure you have a waterproof fly- sheet for wet nights. Try setting it up at home rather than working out how to set it up in the dark at your first camp site.

🔹Use a sleeping bag in a grade for  the range of temperatures you are likely to experience. Down insulation is more efficient and packs down smaller than synthetic fillings. Use compression bags to hold your sleeping bag, tent and pad to make the most effective use of space.

Orange County Choppers in New York salutes fire departmens and emergency responders across the nation (Photo: Jack Dennis)

 🔹Before you set off, make sure your bike is serviced and in good condition. A day or two before departure do a trial run of packing and riding your bike – ideally an overnight trip if you can. You’ll almost certainly over pack so it is a great opportunity to check and reassess what you are taking, and to ensure everything is efficiently packed and you know where it is and how to get at it. Of course, if someone with you is travelling by car, put the campsite equipment in there and only carry essentials – it also means you can take more stuff you will find useful, such as camp chairs, extra food or a cool box.

🔹When you are on your trip, don’t leave too late in the day to find a site – when you are tired, it’s easy to make bad decisions and leaving too late will increase your stress levels and make mistakes more likely to happen. When you’ve found the site, choose the best area – sheltered and flat, not sloping or rocky, and not low-lying so you avoid pooling water if it rains, or falling cold air if the temperature drops. Be friendly with other campers, and when you leave make sure you leave no trace you have been there – kill any fire you may have made, and pick up any trash and clear it away.

🔹Finally, when you are back home, make a post-trip evaluation of your packing – what did you not use, what did you not take that you needed – and make a note of it, so next trip you will be operating at maximum efficiency, leaving you free to enjoy the ride.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

What’s New at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee?

We stopped by Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee back in 2020 knowing it is one of the most-visited attractions in that area. Although it was open, we elected not to go in because of limitations due from the pandemic.

It is definitely on our bucket list to go back to what looks to be a world-class theme park. We heard from locals that we made a good decision at the time, but “come back again because they are always making good improvements and introducing something new.”

For 2022, Dollywood officially opened to the general public on March 12th, with season passholders getting a sneak peak on March 11. Dolly Parton was there, her first time at the park since 2019, to greet everyone back.

Dollywood didn’t waste much time with planning exciting updates with a a variety of projects. Here are some of the changes and additions:

🔹The Emporium, a very popular shop with visitors, was updated aesthetically.

🔹Victoria’s Pizza received a kitchen renovation to improve efficiency and help with visitors getting meals faster. An enlarged seating area has also improved the dining experience.

One change that will really benefit the guest experience are the wider walkways and more space for guests to spread out. Congestion has always been a struggle at Dollywood, but now the park is taking steps toward improvement! The park is creating wider walkways and better utilizing spaces throughout the park. Recently crews removed an old mine tunnel near the tracks for the Dollywood Express. This creates more space for visitors to walk, or stop and watch as the train rolls by.

The Flower & Food Festival has quickly become a fan-favorite festival at Dollywood. Now they have expanded it with new iconic Mosaiculture displays that visitors will love, and hundreds of thousands of blooms throughout the park. The culinary team has created a menu full of items that highlights the tastes of spring in the Smokie Mountains.

Another popular festival is the Summer Celebration. In 2022, Dollywood is expanding the Summer Nights drone and fireworks show with even more drones. The show features hundreds of drones flying high above the park, telling a story with 3D animations and a symphony of light.

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Hoot Owl Hollow

Hoot Owl Hollow is a new area coming to life for Dollywood’s Harvest Festival. It’s located in Craftsman’s Valley and features a number of owl-themed displays in the park and suspended in the trees. The festival has thousands of carved pumpkins, performances from talented artists and Great Pumpkin LumiNights

Dollywood is introducing a brand new season pass structure (Silver, Gold and Diamond) that provides more for guests.

Here’s what to expect with the passes:

🔹Silver – With the Silver Season Pass, visitors get unlimited entries to Dollywood during the 2022 season, 2 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $5 discount on single day tickets. Adult Silver Passes are priced at $149.

🔹Gold – The Gold Season Pass includes access to all-new Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to the park, 4 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets, a $10 discount on single day tickets, free parking, and 15% off select food and merchandise. Adult Gold Passes are $204.

🔹Diamond – With the Diamond Season Pass, visitors receive access to Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, free parking, 20% off select food and merchandise, 6 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $15 discount on single day tickets. These passes are priced at $314 for adults.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Goettle HVAC and Plumbing services are located in Phoenix, Tucson, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas areas as well as regions in Southern California.

‘Truck Joe Biden’ is New Chant Across America

Freedom Rolls With USA Truckers

As midnight ended the first day of America’s great trucker convoys, over 976 trucks and other vehicles settled down in Arizona and beyond. The People’s Convoy group reported donations totalling $464,731 directly to their organization website:

http://www.thepeoplesconvoy.org

Along the way supporters greeted and thanked the truckers with flags, banners and chants of TRUCK JOE BIDEN. Food, water, letters from children and even 25,000 gallons of fuel were provided.

Despite the downplay and propaganda from mainstream media, independent and patriotic news providers reported the facts and enthusiasm of the cause.

The send off crowd sang ‘Amazing Grace’ with the Truckers before they left California.
Shared live on Internet.
Crowds gathered to welcome the Convoy into Arizona to rest for the night.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Seniors: Preparing For Your First Bike Ride in Awhile

You have narrowed your bicycle options to a couple of models that you think will work for you. You are preparing to make a purchase.

How Do I Want To Ride?

Consider the primary purpose for which you will use your bike.

A commuter bike may be suitable for general recreation and exercise, and will probably be less expensive than a bike that offers multiple gearing options.

If you intend to ride your bike on a variety of surfaces, you will probably want to consider a bike that has 3 or 7 speeds.

This type of bike may add a little bit to the price tag, but features like multiple gears and front suspension can make or break your ride on hills and over bumps.

The added comfort and safety are probably worth the slight price increment.

Basic Maintenance

You will probably want to consider the level of assembly required concerning your level of skill with bike maintenance and repairs.

Bikes that are not pre-assembled or that have more moving parts often are not a problem for riders who are repair-savvy.

If you don’t have experience in making bike repairs and adjustments, you may want to consider purchasing a bike that is at least 85 percent pre-assembled.

Some bikes come with a set of generic instructions that are not model-specific. These instructions are often complicated for riders to figure out.
You may want to verify the relevance of the included instructions if you think this might be an issue when you attempt to assemble your new bike.

A Word About Sizing

Proper sizing ensures an optimal fit and makes it easy for you to ride your bike without straining.

Correct sizing is also vital for safety, allowing you to dismount in an emergency quickly.

If your bike is sized correctly sized, you should be able to stand astride the bicycle with both feet flat on the ground.

You can verify your sizing choice by consulting the manufacturer’s sizing charts.

If your height spans two different sizes, you can choose the larger size and adjust it for a proper fit. Another approach is to test both sizes to determine which feels like a better fit.

No Pain Is Your Gain

If you do regular physical activity, you may need a little more time.

To condition your body for rides that become increasingly more challenging as you gain riding experience and increase your muscle tone.

Stretching before you exercise warms your muscles, preventing strains and tears.

Here is a great article that describes ten stretches you can do to warm up before you begin your ride. (2)

Stretching after your ride is an excellent way to cool down and to prevent injury as your body returns to its normal state.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.