Black bears are an important resource in Missouri for their their contributions to regional biodiversity and ecosystem health; however, bears may also be regarded as a nuisance by the general public.

On Monday, Victoria Washburn, captured a black bear on camera at Lions Club Park in Rolla — a seldom sight for residents who visit the park at 1061 S. Bishop Ave.

 

The Missouri Department of Conversation has identified and regulated hunting as part of its management strategy to maintain a viable black bear population compatible with habitat while minimizing conflicts with humans and assuring public safety. 

 

“Missouri Department of Conservation staff from various divisions all around the state conduct a wide variety of scientific research projects to help us protect and manage the fish, forests, and wildlife of the state,” MDC Resource Science Division Chief Jason Sumners explained. “These science-based research efforts also help us provide many opportunities for all Missourians to use, enjoy, and learn about these resources. Our new research website provides in-depth information on many of these efforts for those who want to know more.”

 

Implementation of effective harvest strategies requires sound information on black bear demographics including abundance, sex ratios, population growth rate, and spatial distribution emphasizing resource use across Missouri.

 

Initial population research, which began in 2010, suggested a 2012 statewide estimated population of just under 300 bears. In order to model statewide bear numbers and estimate population trajectory, MDC began a project to measure reproductive and survival rates of female bears in Missouri. 

 

This black bear population model will be used to predict growth and trajectory of Missouri’s black bear population. Current plans are to propose a limited harvest once bear numbers exceed 500 animals. Other research objectives include measuring black bear habitat use and movement patterns, identifying suitable but unoccupied habitat and to delineate travel corridors that link large tracts of suitable bear habitat in the state. 

 

Since the initiation of the Missouri black bear research project in 2010 through June 30, 2017, MDC has marked 145 black bears and has deployed collars on over 90 bears. Female bears will be monitored in the winter den to assess cub production, cub sex ratios and cub survival, in addition to survival, habitat use, and movements. Males will be monitored to assess survival, habitat use, movements, and breeding range.

 

Explore the Missouri Black Bear Project Story Map at mdc.mo.gov/BlackBearProjectStoryMap. The site includes maps of where black bears have been spotted, information on research efforts and results, and plenty of photos and videos of black bears – including peeks inside bear dens, and much more. 

 

BE BEAR AWARE

The MDC warns people to never feed bears and to “Be Bear Aware.”

 

Never feed bears and remember that bird feeders, trash, barbeque grills, and food waste left out at home or camp can all serve as huge attractions for bears. When a bear associates food with people, it can become a problem and may have to be killed to keep people safe.”

 

MDC offers these tips for avoiding attracting black bears to possible food sources:

Don't leave pet food sitting outside. Feed pets a portion they'll eat at each meal and remove the empty containers. Store garbage, recyclables, and compost inside a secure building or in a bear-proof container until the day of trash pick-up. Keep grills and smokers clean and store them inside. Don't use birdfeeders in bear country when bears are active from April through November. Use electric fencing to keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, orchards, and other potential food sources. Keep campsites clean and store all food, toiletries and trash in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees. Do not burn or bury garbage or food waste.

 

While close encounters are uncommon, MDC offers this advice when outdoors in black-bear country:

Make noise while walking or hiking to prevent surprising a bear. Clap, sing, or talk loudly. Travel in a group if possible. Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for bear sign, such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees. Keep dogs leashed. Leave a bear alone! Do not approach it. Make sure it has an escape route. If encountering a bear up close, back away slowly with arms raised to look larger. Speak in a calm, loud voice. Do not turn away from the bear. Back away slowly. Do not run.