CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It's deer season but Missouri's Conservation Department wants us to talk about bears - especially with local sightings on the rise.
In Cape Girardeau County, two of the three reported sightings came just this year. Over the weekend, a hunter snapped another picture of tracks. Conservation agents believe the picture is indeed tracks, and could be the fourth report.
Meanwhile, conservation agents showed Heartland News several pictures snapped on wildlife cameras around the area. Agents say more bears are spotted now in counties like Cape, Bollinger, and Perry.
The first sighting in our area occurred in Butler County back in 1987. Since there reports include dozens of Missouri counties.
"Most are located in the Ozarks but they are moving towards southeast Missouri and they are being reported more here," said Candice Davis of the Conservation Department. "We are working on the Missouri Bear Project now to track the population and increase public knowledge."
Right now agents estimate we have a population between 300 and 500.
"It actually goes back to 1967 with the bear release in Arkansas," said Davis. "We believe that slowly brought the bear migration into Missouri."
Between 1959 and 1967, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission captured 254 black bears in Minnesota and Manitoba and released them in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains of western Arkansas.
"The first one was spotted in Butler county in 1987," said Davis.
Davis says the progression is natural and we should not be afraid.
Meanwhile, people in Bollinger, Iron, and other counties report multiple sightings of tracks and bears to Heartland News.
"Bears want a good habitat where they are well covered with lots of food," said Davis. "If you have food or anything that might sell yummy, even deodorant or something like that keep it in your car. Keep everything away that smells like something a bar may want."
Agents say it's unlikely a bear would approach your camping area when you are around. But if you should encounter one, they say make it an unpleasant experience for the bear. Do not approach the animal, but make plenty of noise with horns and car alarms. Agents say that will almost certainly frighten them off.
Report any sightings or tracks to the Conservation department so they can document the sightings.
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