Black Bear Management Facts

Bear Expansion

Missouri’s bear population is growing in size and expanding in range.

Primary bear range is forested areas south of I-44.

Expansion areas are regions where bear reports are becoming more frequent. Most reports in these areas are of male bears, although some females and breeding have been documented in or very near expansion areas. Expansion areas are near Lake of the Ozarks, south/west of St. Louis, near Poplar Bluff.

Current Population

Research indicates that Missouri is home to approximately 540 – 840 black bears.

The bear population estimate is derived from a model that uses data collected from our bear den research project including female survival, cub production, cub survival and litter sex ratios.

The population estimate is given as a range because it is impossible to know exactly how many bears there are in the state (can’t count each one) and the model takes into account the variability in survival and production.

Bear Hunting

MDC is proposing a limited, and highly regulated black bear hunting season.

The goal of the initial hunting season is to provide opportunity for Missourians to participate in the sustainable harvest of a valuable natural resource.

Season timing and length, restrictive methods, and permit allocation coupled with a harvest quota will initially be limited to ensure sustainable harvest of our growing bear population.

 In the future, as the bear population grows and upon establishment of population benchmarks, regulated harvest will serve as an essential component of population management.

Public comments on the proposed season framework can be submitted online from May 18 - June 5.

There will not be a black bear hunting season in 2020. The earliest a season could occur is the fall of 2021.

Managing Human-Bear Conflict

Human-bear conflict is increasing with the growing bear population. Attraction to food is the most frequent source of human-bear conflict. Removing or securing food attractants is key to preventing the majority of human-bear conflicts, including:

  • Bring in birdfeeders.
  • Keep trash secure. Store in a secure outbuilding, secure container, or behind electric fencing. Put trash out the morning of pick-up.
  • Do not leave pet food or livestock feed out unattended. Store pet food or livestock feed in secure outbuildings, secure containers, or behind electric fencing.
  • Protect bee hives with electric fencing. Be sure fencing is maintained.
  • Online resources are available to provide guidance on proper fencing.
  • Bears are long-lived and have an exceptional memory. They will often revisit locations where they received food in previous years. Simply removing the food source for a day or two is not sufficient as bears will often return.

MDC has tools available to aversively condition persistent bears.

  • Aversive conditioning provides a negative stimulus to the bear in hopes that it associates the negative experience with the behavior it was doing (generally seeking food). Rubber bullets, paint balls, bean bag rounds, cracker shells, and tasers are tools that can be used by trained MDC staff.
  • Aversive conditioning discourages a bear from returning but may be temporary. Removing the attractant is required to ensure bears do not have continued access to food.

If you experience damage or nuisance activity from a bear, contact your MDC Regional Office or your local Conservation Agent.

Be Bear Aware

Don’t feed bears – intentionally or accidentally. A fed bear is a dead bear – when bears lose their fear of people (often by receiving food), they may become bold in search of food. This can result in bears approaching people or breaking into homes/garages/etc to find food. Bears that exhibit bold behavior are often euthanized.

  • Most human-bear conflicts are related to food:  Bird feeders, garbage, pet food, grills/smokers, etc. can attract bears to homes – remove or secure these food attractants.
  • When camping or hiking in bear country, be bear aware. Store food in secure containers, keep a clean camp and keep cooking and sleeping areas separate.

If you see a bear, enjoy the encounter from a distance, give the bear an escape route and never run.

  • Bears retreat up trees when they feel threatened. If you see a bear up a tree, leave the area and let the bear come down when it is ready. Do not try to photograph the bear or get closer.
  • Bears may explore tree stands out of curiosity or attraction to cover scents or food. If you are hunting and a bear approaches the base of your tree stand, immediately alert the bear of your presence – make noise, stand up, make your face visible.

Bear attacks on humans are extremely rare but can occur. Being Bear Aware helps keep you safe.

Report bear sightings to MDC at www.mdc.mo.gov/reportbears. If you experience damage or nuisance activity from a bear, contact your MDC Regional Office or your local Conservation Agent.

Questions?

Contact Laura Conlee, MDC Furbearer Biologist, 573-815-7900, ext. 2903, Laura.conlee@mdc.mo.gov.

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