Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | October 1, 2018
From Missouri Conservationist: October 2018

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Wildlife Management: Black Bear Monitoring

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.”

Black Bear Monitoring at a Glance

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

Report a Bear Sighting

Got a good photo of a bear or a sighting to report? Submit it at Follow the Missouri Black Bear Project at

Also In This Issue

Sinkhole formation in the woods
Explore Missouri’s original landscapes at hard-to-reach natural areas.
Native Trees and Shrubs
Native trees and shrubs bring songbirds, butterflies, and other benefits to urban landscapes.

This Issue's Staff

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