By the turn of the 20th century, the rock cavities and dug-out-root-ball dens of black bears were void of their once numerous occupants. The subtle feeding chuckle of the infantile, hairless cubs would no longer reverberate from these secret places in the mountains of eastern Oklahoma. It was the first time they hadn’t been heard since the end of the last ice age. The black bears, once kings of this unique geographic region, were gone. What had changed? Whatever caused it must have rushed in like a flash flood. Within a few short generations, stories of black bears were only re-told tales heard by the young ears of those that were now old. The icon of American wilderness had disappeared.
When one thinks of Oklahoma, you typically don’t think about it being a black bear habitat. Before European settlement, however, the Ouachita and Ozark mountains were probably as good of bear habitat as there was on the planet. The oak, hickory, and pine climax forests of these mountains lie in Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas. The highest peak is just above 2,700 feet. The Ouachitas are the only east-west running mountain range between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. They are an extremely old range of mountains formed by tectonic uplift, which geologists believe were once as tall as the Rockies, but they eroded over a time period that is incomprehensible by the human mind. Eastern Oklahoma marks the western edge of the massive Eastern deciduous f