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The “Bear” Necessities

Dec 08, 2014

The black bear plays a big part in the Missouri wild mammal population.

Black bears live in the less-settled, forested regions of the U.S. and Canada. In parts of the Midwest, black bears are expanding their range. Adult males can weigh from 200 to 600 lbs. and stand four to six feet tall. Black bears are not sociable, and travel together only as mother with cubs or during mating season.

Black bears are omnivores. Their plant foods include grass, fruits, seeds and the inner bark of trees. For animal food, bears eat everything from ants to carrion. They also like bees and their honey, crickets, grasshoppers, fish, frogs, small rodents, deer fawns and birds’ eggs.

Bears are active spring through autumn. They have no permanent home then, and sleep either in a tree or on the ground. In winter, they den up in a cave, hollow tree or other sheltered spot. Bears sleep deeply, but awaken periodically, and are not true hibernators. Wild black bears are secretive, shy and afraid of humans. They are normally not aggressive toward people.

Black bears are the most common of the three bear species found in North America and they’re expanding their range back into Missouri.

More about Black Bears

  • The black bear is the only species of bear found in Missouri. It is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammal in Missouri.
  • Black bears used to be abundant in the state but had become rare by 1850 and were nearly eliminated by 1931. Reintroduction efforts in Arkansas have led to their reappearance in our state.
  • Young cubs are born in late January or February—sometimes while the mother is still asleep. A litter usually has 2 or 3 cubs.
  • Because a bear can become a danger when it learns to associate humans with food, it is important to keep them wild.

Get more information about black bears in the MDC Field Guide.

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