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Friday, May 25, 2018, 12:05 a.m.

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Recent sightings of bear near I-40, 9-foot-long gator not unusual, Arkansas experts say

By Rachel Herzog

This article was published May 17, 2018 at 2:02 p.m.

2016-file-photo-an-alligator-suns-itself-on-the-marsh-bank-at-pintail-wildlife-drive-in-cameron-prairie-national-wildlife-refuge

2016 FILE PHOTO: An alligator suns itself on the marsh bank at Pintail Wildlife Drive in Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.


In Arkansas, both temperatures and wildlife sightings are on the rise — but experts say this year's amount of reports of alligators and bears isn't that unusual.

Trey Reid, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said weeks of temperatures in the 90s after cooler weather in early spring might have led to the animals' most active periods happening over a shorter period of time. This is also the case for snakes, he added.

Given Arkansas' geography, it's not unusual to see a gator in a populated area close to its natural habitat, Reid said. When a 9-foot-long gator was run over on a street in Pine Bluff this week, the animal may have been 100 yards from a Walmart parking lot but was also close to Bayou Bartholomew, which it likely inhabited, according to Reid.

In the southern part of the state, between 40 and 60 alligator sightings are reported to the commission each year, commission biologist Mike Barbee said, with between 15 and 25 calls coming from each of three regions in the south.

Barbee, who is based in Monticello, said he's gotten nine reports for the southeast region so far in 2018, which is normal. A gator spotted in Russellville in April is likely one of about six to be seen in that region this year, he said.

Reid said the commission does not track bear sightings but that they usually leave their dens in the spring. He added that social media can make it seem like more unusual things are happening, citing a video of a bear running across Interstate 40 near Maumelle that circulated on Facebook.

It's not necessarily happening more, Reid said, "we just know about more of it."

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obbie says... May 18, 2018 at 11:05 a.m.

The Walmart bear was looking for the spring sales.

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