As you may know, the black bear population in central Missouri is on the rise and the Missouri Department of Conservation has designated Missouri’s Ozark Plateau as a black bear migration path, which means black bears are moving within and across the State of Missouri.

Here in Rolla, Central Communications has witnessed a dramatic increase in phone calls reporting bear sightings, in both the city of Rolla, and surrounding Phelps County.

Ok, so they are here, what do we need to do about it? 

Not too much, actually. It is not necessary to call 911, the police, or even animal control to report these animals. The Missouri Department of Conservation tells us that the black bear is an elusive and wide-ranging animal that will try to avoid human population, if possible. Most human contact is the result of an unintentional food source, such as bird feeders, garbage and trash receptacles and pet food sources. Other sightings have been reported from hikers and game hunters. 

So what do you do if you spot a black bear? 

Leave the bear alone. Do not try to approach a bear and do not allow pets to approach a bear. Do not corner the animal, and leave an escape route if possible. If you are surprised by a bear, raise your hands above your head and back away, while talking loudly. Do not turn your back on the animal, or turn and run. In most cases the bear will retreat. 

Do bear sightings need to be reported? 

Yes. If you encounter a bear and it is a situation where you saw a bear at a distance, or crossing the road ahead of you, or in the wood line, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation website at: reports/report-bear-sighting. 

If you encounter a bear in Phelps County that will not leave your yard, has damaged property, injured a pet, or was acting in an aggressive manner, call the Phelps County Missouri Department of Conservation Agent Darrin Wood at 573.202.9438. Of course, if someone is injured from an encounter with a bear, dial 911. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation website offers precautions to be utilized in Missouri bear country.