Bear sightings are more and more frequent
What was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting is now becoming common and widespread as more black bears are seen in Missouri, particularly in the southern half of the state.
Usually shy, black bears are not aggressive and will try to avoid people. The main times when bears move around are late spring and early summer. During this time, black bears can come to your property in search of food, according to Miller County Conservation Officer Eric Swainston. The best way to keep them away is to eliminate this food source.
âWe don’t want people to provide food sources for bears and then lose their natural fear of people or associate people with obtaining food. Although black bear attacks are rare, leave them alone if you see them. Stay away from them and always give them an escape route, âhe warned.
Intentionally feeding bears can be dangerous because it makes them feel comfortable around people. It can also cause bears to associate humans with food, which can lead to significant property damage while they are foraging for a meal. When bears lose their fear of humans, they could approach people in search of food or defend food sources or territory, which can make them dangerous, he said.
âThe main way to keep bears away from your property is to eliminate any type of food they might be looking for,â Swainston said. âStore garbage indoors or in a bear-proof container or location. Regularly clean and disinfect garbage cans to minimize odors that could attract bears. Keep barbecue grills clean and store them indoors.
Bears eat a wide variety of foods, but grass, berries, fruits, seeds, nuts, inner tree bark, and roots are their primary foods. They also like ants, bees, honey, crickets, grasshoppers, fish, frogs, small rodents, fawns, bird eggs and carrion. Bears are also known to eat pet food, human food waste, and bird seed.
âDon’t use bird feeders in bear country from April to November,â Swainston recommended. âIf you want to have bird feeders during this time, hang them at least 10 feet high and 4 feet from any structure. Keep in mind, however, that even if the bear cannot reach the feeder, the smell of birdseed might still attract it. Electric fences help keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, gardens, and other food sources.
While Missouri is only home to black bears, their color can range from black, brown, red, or cinnamon.
With the increase in the bear population, the Missouri Department of Conservation has determined that the state can support a limited and highly regulated harvest. Missouri’s first black bear hunting season will take place Oct. 18-27 this year, with a maximum of 40 bears harvested, according to Swainston.
âParts of Missouri will be divided into designated areas, called bear management areas or BMZs, to hunt black bears. You must have a black bear hunting license, which will be specific to one of the BMZs. A total of 400 bear permits will be issued for all BMZs combined, âSwainston said. “Each BMZ has a different bear harvest quota as well as a different number of permits that will be issued for that area.”
Hunters wishing to apply for a bear hunting license had to apply online in May to participate in the draw for one of the licenses. Those who were lucky enough to be drawn will then have to buy their permits. Bear hunters should call each day before the hunt to determine if the harvest quota has been met for their specific BMZ, Swainston said.
To learn more about bear hunting in Missouri, visit mdc.mo.gov/bearhunting or check out the MDC’s Black Bear Hunting Digest at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/reguations/black-bear -hunting-digest. For more information on black bears and how to be bear aware, visit mdc.mo.gov/bearaware. To report bear sightings, submit information and photos online at mdc.mo.gov/reportbears.