MO black bear population growing

A black bear biologist says Missouri’s black bear population is growing. Laura Conlee with the state conservation department tells Brownfield they estimate Missouri is home to roughly 800 black bears with around nine-percent annual population growth.  

“So, we’re seeing this kind of rise in numbers and as those numbers increase bears are occupying areas that would be former range,” Conlee said. “So, historical range, forested parts of the state but we also have bears showing up in areas of human habitation.”

Conlee said the population is expanding from the far southern wooded areas in the state to similar areas further north like southwest of St. Louis.

She said while the bears mostly stick to the woods for food, they might be attracted to easily accessible livestock feed, commercial beehives, and chicken coops. 

“We talk about bears being like big racoons,” Conlee said. “If a racoon would be attracted to a food source, so would a bear and that’s where we deal with the different types of human-bear conflict that can occur.”

Conlee said proactive measures to block these food sources, like using a hotwire around beehives, are the best way to avoid black bears becoming a problem for ag producers. Conlee encourages producers to contact MDC’s trained professionals if they are experiencing a bear conflict. 

More information on black bear control can be found on MDC’s website

Laura Conlee interview

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