Missouri bear expert releases spring neighborhood bear-sighting forecast

Mo Department of Conservation hopes for fewer incursions in populated areas than last year

Kevin Killeen
June 14, 2019 - 5:08 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The bear sighting days of early spring may be waning into summer, but the Missouri Department of Conservation is warning people to keep their eyes open. 

Wildlife Damage Biologist Tom Meister estimates there are more than 400 black bears in the state, and while most stay south of Interstate 44 in wooded areas, some have strayed into civilized areas this spring.

Most notably, a juvenile black bear romped around downtown Eureka, and then ran in an empty school building before it was shot with a tranquilizer dart and relocated.

Also in recent weeks, a bear climbed a tree near homes in Salem, Mo. and another was seen swimming in the Lake of the Ozarks.

"Usually we see this upswing in activity in March, April and May," Meister said, "and usually by June there's enough food out there in the woods for them to stay in the woods."

Meister predicts bear sightings in human-populated areas will go down as the summer progresses.  But he adds that bears are curious, and sometimes follow their noses if they get a whiff of something savory in the air.

His advice:

**Take the garbage out the morning of trash pickup, not the night before.

**Beware of possible bear interest in bird feeders.

**Carry a can of bear spray when you go hiking in the woods.

**Keep a clean campsite and use bear-proof containers when you camp out.

If you see a bear face-to-face, Meister says slowly walk backwards, hold up your arms to look big, and never turn your back as that makes bears want to give chase. Also, he says, don't climb a tree, because bears are excellent climbers.

Meister is on call in case a bear shows up unexpectedly . He has a bear cage the size of a doll house that he hauls on a trailer.  In his truck, he keeps an array of bear spray products, as well a tranquilizer dart rifle with a telescopic scope.

He's hoping it's a quiet summer for bears in Missouri.

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