Why are there so many bear sightings in St. Louis area?

ST. LOUIS – It seems like every time you turn around there’s been another black bear sighting: Pevely, Herculaneum, Warrenton, Cuba, Ballwin; and just this past weekend, one was spotted on Highway 67 near Fredericktown.

Why are they appearing so frequently? And what do we need to know? Wildlife biologist Tom Meister visits Fox 2 News at 11 to answer these and other important questions.

Q. Why have we been seeing so many black bears lately?
• Black bears emerge from dens in March, April, and May, but maybe a little later this year due to the unseasonably cold spring
• They’re hungry and looking for food
• Also, late spring-early summer is mating season, so males are roaming for mates
• Most bears are still south of I-44 but the population seems to slowly be expanding and growing, so encounters are likely to increase as time goes by
• The Department of Conservation estimates about 350 black bears in Missouri

Q. What do people need to know if a bear is sighted in their area?
• Remove all temptations from the yard like bird feeders, outdoor pet foods, etc.
• Seal garbage or leave it in the garage until morning or pick up
• Clean grills or store in a secure garage or shed
• Do not feed bears!
• Bears quickly grow accustomed to getting or finding human-supplied food and become a nuisance
• This causes problems for humans and sometimes the bear must be destroyed
• Remember: a fed bear is a dead bear!

Q. What should you do if you encounter one hiking or while in camp?
• Remain calm; make the bear aware of your presence
• Make sure the bear has an escape route
• If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect smells in the air
• If the bear utters a series of huffs, snaps or pops its jaws, and swats the ground, you are too close and need to slowly back away
• Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to
steal food. Stand your ground and then slowly back away
• If a bear should attack, fight back aggressively – they are usually put off by a strong
counterattack