ST. LOUIS — Missouri is home to around 900 bears and their population is growing at around 9% annually. The bears are especially active during this time of year. That is why the Missouri Department of Conservation is asking people to be bear-aware after a recent fatal crash. A black bear was struck and killed along I-55 near Festus, Missouri.

Map from the Missouri Department of Conservation

Most of Missouri’s American black bear population can be found in the Ozarks. But, the growing population means that they are expanding their range and becoming more common in the St. Louis area. They have also been found in one of the highly populated portions of the state. A bear was spotted in Kirkwood in 2021 and running near a Rolla truck in 2022.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says that avoiding conflict is the best way to live with bears. Never offer them food because it can make them more comfortable around people. They may start to damage property while looking for their next meal.

The Missouri bear population has been growing steadily over several years. The state has started to allow a limited bear hunting season.