In Brief

By MDC | April 1, 2022
From Missouri Conservationist: April 2022

Be Bear Aware This Spring

As bears leave their winter dens in search of food, MDC offers important safety tips

Missouri is home to an estimated 800 black bears, mostly in the southern part of the state. As spring arrives and these magnificent mammals leave their winter dens, MDC reminds Missourians to “Be Bear Aware.”

MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee said it is imperative that residents remove bear attractants from their property, such as bird feeders, trash, barbecue grills, pet food, and food waste.

“As black bears become active in the spring, they are on a mission to find food,” said Conlee, who is also MDC’s Terrestrial Section chief for its Science Branch. “Keeping areas free of attractants and letting bears find natural foods is in everyone’s best interest. If you see a bear, let the animal be and enjoy the sighting, but be sure to not offer it any food.”

Conlee noted that intentionally feeding bears can be dangerous as it makes the bears comfortable around people. It can also lead bears to cause significant damage to property while searching for a meal.

“When bears lose their fear of humans, they could approach people in search of food or may defend the food sources or territory they associate with people, which can make them dangerous,” Conlee said. “When this happens, the bear cannot be relocated and has to be destroyed. A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Food is usually a bear’s main motivator, but that also means it can be a main source of conflict. We offer the following tips to avoid attracting black bears to possible food sources:

  • Store garbage, recyclables, and compost inside a secure building or in a bear-proof container until trash pick-up day.
  • Keep grills and smokers clean and store them inside.
  • Don’t leave pet food outside. Feed pets a portion at each meal and remove the empty containers.
  • Refrain from using birdfeeders in bear country from April through November. If in use, hang them at least 10 feet high and 4 feet away from any structure. Keep in mind that even if a bear cannot get to the birdseed, the scent could still attract it to the area.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, orchards, and other potential food sources.
  • Keep campsites clean and store all food, toiletries and trash in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees. Do not keep food or toiletries in a tent, and do not burn or bury garbage or food waste.

While black bears are generally a shy, non-aggressive species and bear attacks are rare, follow these tips when outdoors in bear country:

  • Make noise, such as clapping, singing, or talking loudly, while hiking to prevent surprising a bear.
  • Travel in a group if possible.
  • Keep dogs leashed.
  • Be aware of the surroundings. If there is evidence of a bear, such as tracks or scat, avoid the area.
  • Leave bears alone! Do not approach them, and make sure they have an escape route.

Report bear sightings and post photos online at

Teachers: MDC to Launch New Discover Nature Schools Curriculum

To align with new Missouri Learning Standards from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, MDC’s Discover Nature Schools (DNS) new kindergarten, first, and second grade units will meet every standard for all sciences, including physical and life sciences, earth and space, and engineering and technology.

“We have aligned all DNS lessons to Missouri science standards and have updated them to introduce students to Missouri-specific topics such as black bears, turkeys, pollinators, birds, and so much more,” said DNS Curriculum Coordinator Mary Beth Factor.

Changes will include:

  • Grade-specific units for kindergarten, first, and second grade, rather than one bundled K–2 unit.
  • Alignment with all Missouri Learning Science Standards rather than only life science standards.
  • Teacher kits available to all classroom teachers trained by a local conservation educator.
  • Full-color teacher guides and student guides for each unit.

“We are also updating the MDC Teacher Portal to include classroom pages with digital resources aligned to specific lessons in the units,” said Factor. “These support materials will include videos, audio clips, printable classroom handouts, and so much more. We are working hard to ensure our curriculum is relevant for today’s classroom.”

The new units will be available in fall 2022. Teachers interested in ordering the new curriculum, or other DNS units — at no cost for Missouri classroom teachers and homeschool parents — can visit MDC’s online Teacher Portal at

Classroom teachers can also receive a DNS Teacher Kit and Field Experience Grant after participating in required training. To find a local MDC conservation educator and schedule a training, visit us online at

DNS began in 2008 to promote and teach scientific learning and skills to Missouri students through lessons that are engaging, hands on, and Missouri-specific. The program has since grown from a middle-school aquatics-focused curriculum to offering curriculum for pre-K through high school, with students exploring scientific concepts in the outdoors.

Get New MDC booklets

Missouri hunters, trappers, anglers, and others can get free copies of MDC’s updated booklets on spring turkey hunting, hunting and trapping, fishing, and the Wildlife Code of Missouri at MDC regional offices, MDC nature centers, and other places where permits are sold. The handy booklets have information on related permits, seasons, species, regulations, limits, conservation areas, sunrise and sunset tables, and more.

The booklets are available online at using the search tool at the top of the homepage, or using these specific links:

  • 2022 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information at
  • Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations at
  • Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations at
  • Wildlife Code of Missouri at
Agent Advice
Statistics Elements

Tex Rabenau
Maries County
Conservation Agent


If spring has you reaching for the fishing pole, think about angling for a fish in the temperate bass family. This group — which includes white, hybrid, striped, and yellow bass — are abundant and fun to catch this time of year. When water temperatures reach 55 degrees, they start moving into tributaries to spawn. This activity makes them easier to catch, using a 2-inch white grub, jointed minnow, or something that simulates their preferred food, gizzard shad. Limits are generous, with 15 in the aggregate but only four over 18 inches. To learn more, including information regarding permits and any special regulations, check out A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, available at

We Are Conservation
The Black People Who Hike leadership team in fall 2021, pictured left to right: Yamiel Bell, Antonia Burgess, Karine Evans, Lashaye Giles, Charles Davis III, Aarin Weathers; front: Debbie Njai.
Jaelin Collier
Right to Use

Debbie Njai,
Founder of Black People Who Hike

Debbie Njai was introduced to hiking in August 2019, and it proved to be just what she needed. Njai started hiking every Sunday, which led to her starting Black People Who Hike as an Instagram page and organized group events, drawing up to 50 people.

“We hike, too”

Black People Who Hike is more than hiking — it’s a movement. “We are cultivating the next generation of conservationists,” said Njai. “Hiking is just the gateway.” Wilderness first aid, introduction to backpacking, and kayaking safety are just a few of the trainings Njai and her leadership team completed in 2021. Njai sees education as empowerment, which will lead to more people comfortable in the outdoors.

In her own words

“We want to get more people of color on the trails and taking advantage of this free resource until it becomes second nature. Then it becomes a catalyst for a healthier community — both physically and mentally.”

For more information, visit

what is it?


Jack-in-the pulpit’s canopylike leaf is green with white and brown lengthwise markings. The leaflike structure, known as a spathe, shelters the vertical, clublike flower, known as the Jack or spadix, that blooms from April–June. The base of the spathe creates a cylinder around the spadix, forming the “pulpit.”


This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler