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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State conservation officials say six black bears have died after being hit by vehicles in Missouri this year.

Missouri Department of Conservation biologist Laura Conless says the number of deaths is higher than last year but is not an unusually high number.

The latest bear killed by a vehicle was Sunday near Fredericktown, south of St. Louis. The driver of the vehicle wasn’t hurt.

Conlee said Missouri’s bear population is growing, and that could be contributing to the number of bear-vehicle collisions. She says bears also are more active because it’s breeding season and spring and summer weather has reduced their food supply.

The Springfield News-Leader reports a large male black bear died in June of cancer. Conlee says the department has not documented a bear dying of cancer before.

Information from: Springfield News-Leader,