(Springfield) – Late spring and early summer are the times Missourians are most likely to encounter one of the state’s estimated 800 black bears – whether crossing the road, on a hiking trail or even in their garden.

Biologist Laura Conlee, a furry animal biologist and black bear researcher at the Missouri Department of Conservation, said this was the time when young bears were essentially being kicked out – and looking for their own place to settle.

Also, it is breeding season and males of breeding age are starting to cover a lot of ground.

“Missouri has a growing and expanding bear population,” Conlee said. “Most of our bear population is really in the southern third of the state, the most forested parts of the Ozarks. But that population is growing and expanding quite rapidly.”

Conlee said if people encounter bears this season, while hiking, or in other outdoor activities, they should put their hands above their heads to grow larger, talk to the bear about it. ‘a calm voice and back away.

She said it’s also essential to make sure you don’t entice bears into your yard or campsite with food.

Conlee added that if a bear is inadvertently fed by humans, it can keep coming back. So she urged people to bring bird feeders, outdoor pet food, barbecues and any other food source that bears may have access to.

“They have a really good memory and they might start to get repetitive in these behaviors,” Conlee said. “And, you know, most people enjoy watching the bear – but when that bear starts going up and going into, say, their bees, or their chickens and things like that, and causing damage , that’s when these problems can arise. “

The Department of Conservation is asking people to report sightings to mdc.mo.gov/reportbears. Conlee said it helps the department keep tabs on where bears and humans come in contact, especially on the outskirts of Missouri bear range.

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