by Bonnie Chasteen
Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.
When does a female bear with cubs leave her den? And where are bears with cubs appearing in Missouri? MDC researchers and landowners are using trail cameras to help answer these questions as our state’s black bear population grows.
“We place trail cams outside traps and dens to see who’s coming to them,” said MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee. “Cameras at dens can give us exit dates and allow us to access reproductive information for collared females when we can’t access a sow in the den. The cameras let us know how many cubs or yearlings she had that winter.”
Conlee heads up the Missouri Black Bear Project, a research effort begun in 2010. “Based on a 2012 population estimate, there are around 350 bears in the state, but we know that population is growing and expanding,” Conlee said. Reproductive and survival data collected over the last several years will inform a population model, which will be used to predict the growth and trajectory of Missouri’s black bear population.
“This information will allow us to determine when our bear population exceeds 500 bears, a benchmark for initiation of a hunting season,” Conlee said.
Citizens can contribute to the Missouri Black Bear Project in an informal way by submitting bear sightings.
“We get quite a few trail cam photos from the public,” Conlee said. “This helps us monitor our black bear range in general and gives us a detailed look at where we have females with cubs occurring within the state.”
32 Number of female bears with GPS or satellite collars. Staff check dens during winter to assess females’ condition and determine presence/ absence of cubs.
19 Number of dens monitored with trail cameras in 2018
284 reported sightings in 2017
Got a good photo of a bear or a sighting to report? Submit it at mdc.mo.gov/ReportBears. Follow the Missouri Black Bear Project at research.mdc.mo.gov
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber
Art Director - Cliff White
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler