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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or a brush pile. Bears might also simply hide in the protection of thick, concealing brush. Bears don’t have a true hibernation, but avoid the winter food shortage by becoming lethargic. In the den, they reduce their metabolic rate, surviving without eating, drinking, exercising, or passing waste.

Females may have a litter as early as 3 years of age. After successful breeding, fertilized blastocysts implant in the uterus and undergo a quick 45-day gestation period. Young are tiny, weighing only about 9 ounces, but they grow quickly on rich fatty milk. The female can care for the young even while in a semi-dormant state.

Bear cubs grow rapidly, reaching 60-80 pounds or more by the end of their first summer and fall. They return to den with their mother one more winter before heading out on their own during their second year. After leaving home, young females typically stay close by, but males might wander many miles trying to find areas that do not already have large adult males, but do have food and females. Sometimes these bears can go several hundred miles in their search for new territory.

Getting Along With Bears

Sometimes we fear most those things we understand least. While there are still plenty of things we don’t know about bears in Missouri, we do know we have them, and it looks like more are on the way. With an increasing bear population, the opportunity to see a bear also increases. As a result, many Missourians are encountering bears for the first time and may be unsure how to react.

By nature, black bears are docile and reclusive, and they tend to avoid people. Hunters have reported watching them from their tree stands and, while the bear is aware of the hunter’s presence, it merely wanders off without incident. More often, bears retreat quickly when they become aware of human presence, leaving a person to only imagine what might have been crashing through the brush.

We have not experienced a bear attack on a person in Missouri in modern times. However, three bears were killed in Missouri by people last year, and two of those were possibly habituated bears that came too close to people. Black bears are protected by Missouri’s Wildlife Code and may not be killed without prior permission by an agent of the Department. We are trying to stop the mindset of “shoot first and ask questions later” when it

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