MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama conservation officials say black bear sightings make it clear that the bears are increasing in number and expanding their range.
Keith Gauldin of the conservation department's wildlife division says black bears have been sighted recently in Butler and Choctaw counties in south Alabama. Sightings have occurred in recent years in Jefferson, Lee, Chambers and Macon counties.
The department estimates Alabama has less than 350 black bears. Alabama's black bear population was based in Mobile and Washington counties for many years.
Conservation officials say bears migrating from Georgia have established a small but viable population in northeast Alabama. They say the expansion to other areas is likely the result of a natural increase in black bears and habitat fragmentation due to residential and commercial development.