Historically, black bears were so abundant that the unofficial motto for Arkansas was “The Bear State.” Yet Black bears became rare in Arkansas after 1850, due to over-harvesting and habitat destruction.
By 1930 less than 50 black bears were thought to remain in the state, with most residing in the rugged remote bottomland areas of what is now the Dale Bumpers/White River National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Arkansas.
The refuge played a critical role in the comeback story of these native Arkansas bears. Established in 1935 the refuge provided the first buffer against bulldozers that were actively clearing and leveling the surrounding forests for farmland. By protecting and managing these remaining forest lands our refuge provided one of the most successful comeback stories in wildlife management history.