Many Missourians are under the impression that we do not have any bears living here. This statement is truly false. There have been several incidents where residents have found bears in their homes. One couple woke up in the middle of the night to a loud noise in their kitchen, when they stumbled down the stairs they actually fell over a large fuzzy bear raiding their kitchen. The people had been feeding this bear outside for some time, so it had become accustomed to the people that it just let itself in the house and when being faced with one of these people, it ran away out the same door it came in.
Bears were once common throughout Missouri, but since widespread habitat changes and unregulated bear hunting, they were almost wiped out. By the 1890’s they were believed to be almost eliminated completely. Most of the bear population that exists today comes from 254 black bears that were released between 1959 and 1967 in the Ozarks. The population of black bears in Arkansas is around 3,000 to 3,500 and some of their offspring has wandered into Missouri and set up homes.
The black bear population is slowly increasing in Missouri Ozarks and the numbers are somewhere between 300 to 500 bears. They are said to be scattered over a wide area of the southern regions of Missouri. With many studies saying there are several reproducing females, the majority of the population of black bears seems to be young males. If you were to take and draw a line that would go along highway I-44 from St. Louis to near Joplin, the majority of the black bears would be found south of that line. There are about three million acres of black bear habitat in Missouri. Most of the oak woodlands provide excellent fall foods, mainly acorns, but not much of this would be considered excellent habitat because of the number of roads and fairly gentle terrain. Wise logging operations and forest clearings will help improve the bear’s habitats by providing forage and berries in the summer and spring time. Insects in the areas will also provide for important summer bear foods.
Black bears were given their name after their more dominate color, but these bears can also be brown, tan or even cinnamon color. These bears can be also referred to as honey bears or cinnamon bears.
Although there are still a lot of things we do not understand about black bears, we do know that we have them living among some parts of our state. We must try and learn all that we can so that if you ever have an encounter with one, we will know how to react. Most of the black bears are reclusive by nature and tend to stay away from humans as much as possible, so they will retreat when they encounter one. In the earlier story mentioned the bear came face to face with people and simply ran away. This can be a dangerous situation and should be avoided at all cost. This can become dangerous because it is hard to get rid of this kind of pet without drastic measures. It is never a wise idea to feed a bear and can be very harmful to you and the bear. If we can learn to understand black bears, we can keep ourselves and our families safe, while keeping the black bear habitat safe.