Local man reports sighting of a bear near his Jack home

Published 3:00 am Friday, January 12, 2018

Bear tales are much like fish tales, the more they are told, the bigger they get.

John H. Parish of the Jack community is not one to stretch a tale, but he’s not opposed to sharing a tale or two.

But, first things first.

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Parish sighted a couple of bears near his home while on a short walk Sunday.

“A tree fell at the edge of the road and still had a bunch of leaves on it,” he said. “I was out walking and saw something feeding on the leaves. At first, I thought it was a wild hog but then I saw it was a bear, a little one about the size of a dog. I had a hiking stick with a metal tip on it. I hit that metal on the asphalt and the little bear took off running downhill toward the creek.”

Parish then saw another little bear but it was looking away from him.

“When it saw me, it took off in the woods,” he said. “Neither one was all that big but they were bears, black bears. I’ve heard of people seeing bears, but those are the first ones I’ve seen around here.”

Parish said a couple of school bus drivers have seen bears in the area and there have been bears around the Conecuh River for years.

“We don’t see bears a lot but they are here,” he said. “I’ve seen two, of course, they weren’t any 400-pound bears but they were bears.”

When Parish was about 10 years old, he actually saw a 400-pound bear. His family had a camp cabin down near the creek in the Josie area and several of them decided to spend the night in the cabin.

During the night, they heard noise outside and went to investigate.

“There was no moon that night so it was real dark but we saw a big bear,” Parish said. “It stood up, swaying, and watched us. Then, it took off toward down the edge of the swamp. It scared the stew out of us.

“We knew it was a bear but we went and checked the cow pens to make sure that was what we saw. There had been reports of farmers losing their chickens and livestock. Looked like it could have been that bear.”

About two weeks later, a big bear was sighted not too far away.

Parish shared a written account that Tim Hussey shared with him of the sighting and “harvesting” of the big black bear.

In August 1956, a standing six-foot, black bear weighing between 350 and 400 pounds was shot and killed by a party of hunters near the Mt. Zion community.

J.C. Dykes organized the hunting party after he found bear tracks while inspecting his cotton crop.

The dogs tracked the bear for three hours before putting eyes on it. The cornered bear slapped one of the dogs at least 10 feet in the air and then charged the hunters. One of the hunters fired a shotgun at the bear’s mouth. The shot knocked the stunned bear back and around 40 hunters began firing at him. The wounded bear charged the hunters and one of them climbed a tree that was so slick he couldn’t climb back down.

The bear’s carcass was taken by pickup truck to the Barber Quick Freeze in Clayton to be dressed for meat.

People came out of the woods and the woodwork and jammed the slaughter room to see the huge bear before it was dressed for meat.

The Alabama Department of Conservation confiscated the meat but only after a mighty good mess had been enjoyed.

Residents of the Mt. Zion community were advised to keep a shotgun handy in case the male had a mate.

The story is that the man who climbed the slick tree had to be coxed down with a pint on ice cream, bringing a sweet end to a “hairy” story.