MISSOURI (KFVS) - The Missouri Department of Conservation is in the process of tracking how fast the black bear population is growing and its survival rate in the state's habitat.
A large carnivore that was mostly going extinct at one point, is now making a comeback, MDC Bear Biologist Jeff Beringer said.
Beringer can tell the black bear population is growing by the increase in public bear sightings and the radio collars of some bears are showing evidence of a supportive environment.
According to Missouri Black Bear Research 2010-2022, black bears are most active in southern Missouri. The estimated population is about 280 black bears.
The Missouri Black Bear Project said in 1940 bears in Missouri were almost extinct, but over the last 50 years, the bear population has increased.
"Black bears are native to Missouri and Arkansas," MDC Madison County Conservation Agent Kyle Dunda said. "Arkansas in the late 50's was establishing a black bear population, and since then, they have moved up areas such as Shannon, Reynolds, Butler County even in my county. Madison provides the best habitat for black bears as far as their wintering grounds."
The increase in the black bear shows a healthy ecosystem in Missouri and shows there is wild country left, which is a good thing Beringer said.
"The recent increase in Missouri's black bear population has been primarily attributed to transient bears from neighboring state's restocking programs," according to Missouri Black Bear Foundation.
A Madison County Conservation Agent says they are preparing to handle the growing population of bears.
"We're actually putting on an intensive training course, as far as wildlife attack training, and introducing bears and mountain lions in situations like that because these are animals are coming into Missouri," Dunda said.
This map from the Missouri Black Bear Project shows the estimated black bear distribution in Missouri based on reported observations, 1989-2010. Points represent individual observations; estimated density of sightings ranges from high (red areas) to low (white areas).
The black bear will wake up from hibernation in April and will probably be hungry.
The biggest thing Beringer tries to implement is "be bear aware" especially in the woods. Don't feed a bear or they will keep coming back and be aware of leaving garbage around your house if you live in the woods because it can attract bears.
Dunda also said that the land wouldn't be as environmentally friendly as it's become to animals without the help of landowners reaching out to the department to create better ecosystems.