Why we’re likely to see more bears enter human population

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ST. LOUIS – We’ve covered stories of bears coming out of the woods, breaking into buildings and homes. Wildlife experts say we’re going to see a lot more of it.

Dan Zarlenga, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says indications are that we can probably expect to see bears more in future as their population grows.

Q. What does the latest research tell us about Missouri’s bear population?

  • The latest data has caused us to revise population estimates upward, to between 500-800
  • This is up from the 350 we estimated from a 2012 population model
  • They seem to be growing at a steady rate
  • Still primarily in the Ozarks and south of I-44, but expanding north
  • Primary expansion areas seem to be to the south and west of St. Louis, Lake of the Ozarks, and Poplar Bluff
  • We saw the bear last May in Eureka, another sighting in June 2018 in Ballwin, and regular reports from Warren and Jefferson counties

Q. How will the MDC manage black bear populations as they expand?

  • The primary method would be by establishing a limited hunting season
  • The 2008 black bear management plan established a benchmark of 500 bears needed for considering a hunting season
  • MDC is now beginning to investigate this possibility
  • This would be based on what the bear population could handle, and the public would support

Q. Tell us about the black bear informational event you have coming up?

  • Next Tuesday, July 30 from 6-8 p.m.
  • Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood near I-270 and I-44
  • Free and open to the public
  • No advanced registration required

Q. What will you have at the open house?

  • Latest findings MDC’s black-bear research projects and management efforts
  • MDC’s newest draft black bear management plan for public review
  • Discussion of potential future hunting opportunities
  • Opportunity to get information and answers directly from MDC wildlife biologists at a variety of educational stations
  • MDC staff will also be taking comments on prospective hunting season and other related topics regarding black bears in Missouri

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