Predators such as ocelots, jaguars, and red wolves once inhabited the Big Thicket Region, but habitat fragmentation and hunting contributed to their extirpation. The area was famous for its black bear populations, but these too were hunted heavily for over 100 years until they were extirpated from southeast Texas in the 1950’s. However, the good news is that bears may be making a comeback from surrounding states. Regional resource managers have been documenting bear sightings in Eastern Texas and believe there is a good chance that individual bears either from the Louisiana subspecies of the American black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) or from the Ozark region populations may eventually re-establish in the area. Areas of the preserve could serve as core home range areas for these bears who use large hollow trees as denning sites and love to feed on the abundant mast crops.
Today bobcats, red & gray fox, and coyotes are the most common predators on land, with river otters, muskrat and alligators being the top predators of the swamp lands, and bald eagles of the airways. Mountain lion numbers have slowly rebounded from being nearly extirpated in Texas in the 1960’s. They are occasionally sighted in and around the preserve. Care should be taken around any of these predators as they fulfill their critical roles in the Big Thicket.