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Black bear bill passes state Senate

By By JANET LITTLE COOPER – For The Standard
One year ago, Shiren McGlothren's eighth-grade science class at Escambia County Middle School presented a petition to Sen. Pat Lindsey (D-Butler) and Rep. Skippy White (D-Pollard) to make the Alabama black bear the state's official mammal.
However, the bill went into hibernation with the bear, only to be heard of again last Thursday when Sen. Lindsey got the Senate to vote 25 - 0 for his legislation declaring the black bear as the official state mammal.
According to a spokesman from Sen. Lindsey's office, the bill still must be passed by the House and signed by the governor to become a law.
Alabama has an official bird, insect, reptile and newly added amphibian, the red hills salamander. The red hills salamader was named in 2000 after a group of Baldwin County students led a petition drive much like the one from the ECMS students for the black bear.
Sen. Lindsey met with McGlothren's class at Turtle Point Environmental Science Center in April of 2005 to receive the students' petition calling for the black bear to be named as the state mammal.
According to West, there are higher concentrations of black bears in Mobile, Baldwin, Washington and Monroe counties with a few in Escambia, Conecuh and Covington. West also stated that a black bear was seen two months ago on Upper Creek Road just a few miles from the Turtle Point Enviromental Center.
The black bear, also known as the most common species on the planet, is a reclusive animal typically only being seen during mating season when the males travel and the females stay at home.
Alabama was once common ground for the black bear, but now the species is limited to few areas of the state that are being examined by the Alabama Black Bear Alliance in an effort to determine how many bears there are, where they are and what their habitat needs are to survive.
A report from the Alabama Department of Conservation indicates that there are no more than 50 bears in southwest Alabama.