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Be Bear Wise in Missouri? Yes!

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 6, 2010

Black Bear

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comes to black bears by educating people about bears and resolving their fear of the unknown.

The Department has wildlife damage biologists that are trained and experienced in handling nuisance bear issues. They can usually resolve problems associated with bears without having to kill them or trap and relocate them. We can be most helpful if we are contacted at the first sign of nuisance bear behavior. Don’t wait until the bear has made itself comfortable in your backyard before asking for assistance.

Bears are smart and learn fast. They avoid circumstances that are uncomfortable for them, which is why harassment works well. If a bear is found in your yard, create a racket by making loud noises and shouting, without approaching the bear. A barking dog is also a good and natural deterrent.

Bears are sensitive to electricity, and stringing electric fence around whatever you don’t want them getting into is almost 100 percent effective.

Most bear problems can be corrected by removing or keeping food items out of reach and by harassing the bear. If harassment and exclusion tactics don’t work, the bear may have to be trapped by a wildlife damage biologist as a last resort.

A Future With Bears

Most folks welcome the chance to see a bear in the wilds of Missouri and, for the most part, those encounters will be positive ones. Learning to live with bears will be important for the bears as well as for Missouri’s citizens. By judging from Missouri’s proud conservation past when it comes to our native wildlife, I’d say we’re up for the challenge.

Bear Wise — What To Do If You Encounter a Bear

Bears are normally shy of humans and quickly get out of our way when they see us. If you spot a bear on a trail, if a bear is trying to get at food in your yard or campsite, or if a bear tries to approach you, here is how you should react:

  • Do not approach the bear to get a better look. Slowly back away while watching the bear and wait for it to leave.
  • If you are near a building or car, get inside as a precaution. If the bear was attracted to food or garbage, make sure it is removed after the bear leaves to discourage the bear from returning.
  • If you are with others, stay together and act as a group. Make sure that the bear has a clear escape route, then yell and wave your arms to make yourself look bigger. Bang pots and pans—make noise somehow.
  • Do not climb a tree—black bears are excellent tree climbers.
  • A bear may stand upright to get a better view, make huffing or “popping” sounds, swat or beat the ground with its forepaws or even bluff charge—this means that you are too close. Back off and give the bear more space. If the bear comes within range, use pepper spray if you have it.
  • If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Remove people and dogs from the area. The bear will usually come down and leave when it feels safe.
  • It is important to keep dogs away from a bear. While a well-trained dog may deter a bear, a poorly trained one may only excite it.
  • Call the Missouri Department of Conservation—we are prepared to help!

In Memory of Dave Hamilton (1955-2007)

Dave Hamilton, respected resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and a great friend and advisor, died on September 8, 2007, at age 52.

Dave was a consummate wildlife professional, a deeply committed biologist and an outstanding researcher. His unwavering devotion to resource management and his national and international status as an expert in the field of furbearer management and humane trapping methods are a credit to him, the MDC, and the conservation of wildlife resources in Missouri.

Dave was dedicated to natural resource management and to the prospect of leaving a better world for those who followed in his footsteps. By virtue of his commitment to scientific excellence and to the wise use of abundant natural resources, trappers, hunters, and wildlife managers throughout the United States have a more secure future.

Throughout his career and personal life, Dave influenced many people with his optimism, innovative approaches, boundless energy, courteous demeanor, attention to detail, professionalism and personal concern for the well-being of Missouri and its resources. He mentored many young professionals and set an example that influenced a generation.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Dave was valued as a friend and colleague. There is no person that spent any time with Dave who was not impacted by his talent, charisma and dedication. He will be sorely missed by the entire conservation community, and our thoughts and prayers are with Dave’s family and friends.

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