SARALAND, Ala. (WKRG) — A research project underway in Mobile County is looking at a unique species of bears in south Alabama and Florida. They’re looking for landowners who want to help find more bears. As communities like Saraland have expanded, the frequency of human and bear encounters in residential neighborhoods has gone up. The question here is whether or not the black bears in south Alabama are continuing to thrive.

Auburn Graduate Research Assistant Jenna Malzahn is studying the black bears that are unique to this area. They are geographically isolated from the other species of black bear in north Alabama that are more closely related to bears from Appalachia. She’s capturing, sedating, and tagging mother bears as well as cubs to study how well they’re reproducing and how well the population is doing. It’s a study that’s about a decade old. They have some indication that some cubs are having trouble integrating into the bear population down here and some indication of inbreeding in the population.

“Black bears are really important for the environment. They’re also they’re great, just like umbrella species. So if you’re protecting the habitat for Black bears, you’re protecting the habitat for a variety of species underneath them because they use a variety of habitats,” said Auburn Graduate Research Assistant Jenna Malzahn. They also track bears to dens to look at their habitat to see if a lack of habitat is contributing to issues. They also age the adult bears by taking a tooth sample. They don’t relocate the bear but they are looking for large landowners in Mobile County to help if they’ll let them trap and release bears for study on their land. If you think you can help, contact them at 251-265-1039