Tracking an increase in bears in Mid-Missouri
Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in American black bear sightings across Mid-Missouri and the entirety of the state. According to Nate Bowersock of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the current estimated population sits at 900 black bears. Each year the population grows at around 9% meaning that in the next 10 years the current population could double to nearly 1800 bears.
Just over a decade ago, most bear sightings remained along and south of the highway 44 corridor. This was due to a reintroduction program in Arkansas in the mid-1900s. These bears then migrated their way to the north filtering into the Missouri Ozark mountains. This region provided an ample habitat for the bears as it is heavily forested. Current trends shows increased bear sightings well north of this area now back into Mid-Missouri.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, there has been a substantial increase in bear sightings near the Lake of the Ozark's region. In addition to these sightings, many of these bears have been noticed in breading pairs and cubs have been spotted indicating a stronger potential future population in the localized area.
With May and June being mating season for the American black bear, sightings can become more frequent. This means residents of Mid-Missouri should be "Bear Aware." To stay safe, hiking in groups is encourage. This deters curious bears. It is also recommended to not run away from bears. If you encounter a black bear, you should stay put and make loud noises and even throw nearby objects such as a rock in the direction of the bear. To be extra cautious, it is also recommended to carry bear spray on hand.