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Be Bear Aware

Apr 23, 2018

Black bears are making a comeback in Missouri’s southern forests. To know and understand them helps to appreciate and protect them.

Wild black bears are secretive, shy and afraid of humans. They are not normally aggressive towards people. Bears are active spring through fall. In the winter they hibernate in hollow dead trees, rock crevices, caves, or in deep brush piles.

Black bears can appear brown or tan, cinnamon or black. As omnivores, they eat everything from grasses and berries to fish and small mammals. They will eat your garbage or stored foods if you don’t keep it indoors. Feeding bears usually results in the bear having to be destroyed.

To be bear aware, stay alert and avoid surprises while in the woods. Make noise, travel in groups and keep dogs leashed. If you encounter a bear, raise your arms and back slowly away. Do not run or turn your back.

Keep clean campsites by storing food and toiletries in a vehicle trunk or up at least 10 feet high, strung between trees. If you are lucky enough to see a bear, leave them alone and help keep them wild.

Black Bear Tracks

Here’s how to identify if tracks are black bear tracks:

  • A black bear’s front tracks are usually around 3 3/4 inches long with five toes.
  • Front claws often do not show in these tracks, and the separate heel pad sometimes doesn't show.
  • A black bear’s hind tracks are usually 8 inches long and show 4-5 toes.
  • Hind tracks often look like the prints of a person wearing moccasins.

For more about black bears, visit the MDC’s Field Guide.

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