Take steps to avoid conflict with snakes and bears as they spring forth

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – As rising temperatures and increased daylight hours mark the start of a new season, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says not to be surprised by encounters with snakes, bears or other wildlife. 

“Just like us, wildlife is more active in the spring,” said Sara Turner, manager of the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center.

Turner said in spring, phone calls increase from people who wonder if snake populations are on the rise.

“In the same way that we run into people we know at the grocery store during common shopping hours, we simply see more wildlife when the weather is nice enough that we all want to emerge and enjoy it,” she said.

Turner said there are steps people can take to reduce probability of conflicts with both snakes and bears.

In rural communities, don’t offer locations for snakes to hide in such as wood or trash piles. Keep gardens tidy, so there are fewer possibilities for snake cover.  Pick up and clean up areas around the home, keep yards mowed and well kept, pile firewood and brush away from the home and don’t tolerate rodents.

“If there’s a rodent problem, snakes will see an opportunity for food,” Turner said. “Take care of rodent problems right away to avoid attracting snakes.”

In the case of bears, it’s important to be “Bear Aware.” Black bears are native to Missouri and are very hungry when they emerge from their winter sleep. Sometimes their usual menu isn’t readily available, which can lead them to search for alternative food sources such as trash cans and pet food.

“Be ‘bear aware’ by making sure your home doesn’t look like a food source for black bears,” Turner said.

Always put pet foods and food scraps far away from the house and place bird feeders far from porches and as high as possible.

“We say ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ because if a bear learns it can find easy food in your trash can or at your bird feeders it will likely return and continue to be a nuisance,” Turner said.

When hiking or camping, Turner said to make plenty of noise, which will send bears in the opposite direction. She also recommends carrying bear spray, which can be purchased at any outdoor supply store. For snakes, watch where you step and put your hands, so that you don’t surprise a resting snake.

“Taking a few precautions can ensure both you and the wildlife stay safe while you enjoy the outdoors,” Turner said.

More information on bears, snakes and other Missouri wildlife is available at mdc.mo.gov