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KIRKWOOD, Mo. – The Kirkwood Police Department confirmed a black bear sighting in the Kirkwood/Oakland area.

The department said they are aware of this black bear’s whereabouts along with the Missouri Department of Conservation. They say as long as you don’t bother the bear, it won’t bother you. Keep an eye on all pets.

The Department of Conservation says Missouri is now home to between 500 and 900 black bears and that numbers are increasing each year. They are mostly found south of the Missouri River, primarily south of Interstate 44.

While black bears usually avoid encounters with people, their growing numbers mean sightings are becoming more common in areas that have not seen bears for many years

So, we need to be more bear aware. If you are hiking or camping and there is evidence of a bear in the area, such as tracks or scat, avoid the area. Make noises such as clapping, singing or talking loudly to prevent surprising a bear. Travel in a group if possible and keep dogs leashed.

Remember, bears spend most of their time searching for food. Never approach or feed a bear. Properly store food while camping and throw waste away in bear proof containers. Don’t leave pet food outside. Keep grills and smokers clean. And don’t use birdfeeders if you live in bear country from April through November.