trap site where it will revive in a short period of time.
Department of Conservation biologists hope the wide range of data they’re collecting will give them a clearer picture of the bears that are showing up with increasing frequency in southern Missouri.
“We will learn the extent of occupied bear habitat and learn the habitat bears use by season,” Beringer said. “This will help us to protect and manage for bears. We will learn travel corridors, where and when bears cross highways and other roads as well as when and where bears den.”
Every bear trapped has the potential to reveal information that is useful. Studying males will help biologists understand when breeding occurs, when the males disperse and how far they travel. Studying cubs and yearlings will reveal important clues about survival rates, gender ratios and population growth. But it’s the females that hold some of the most valuable information for biologists.
“Females drive population growth,” Beringer said. “Knowing reproduction and survival rates for females will enable us to better predict population growth rates for bears.”
Although the 400-pound male caught in Webster County is on the large end of the scale for a Missouri black bear, larger bears have been recorded in other states. Black bears can hear a wider range of frequencies than humans, but their greatest sensory attribute is their sense of smell. A black bear’s nasal mucosa area (the internal area of the nose which contains special sensory cells for collecting scents) is approximately 100 times the size of a human. Top these traits off with an ability to run up to 30 mph and it’s easier to understand why Missouri’s bears have been difficult to observe and study.
One trait long associated with bears—hibernating—may be something of a mischaracterization: It all comes down to how one defines hibernation. In colder parts of their North American range, black bears retire to winter dens in late fall or early winter (depending on food availability) and go into a deep period of lethargy and sleep. Although bodily functions are greatly slowed, they are not suppressed to the same degree as with deep hibernators such as groundhogs or ground squirrels. Also, bears alternate periods of light and deep sleep throughout the winter and may even leave their dens for short periods when its warm, something deep hibernating mammals don’t do. Male bears, in particular, have