The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirms that a black bear was euthanized by local law enforcement Sunday in Perryville. According to MDC Wildlife Regional Supervisor Matt Bowyer, this was a situational call by local law enforcement.
MDC personnel were notified of sightings of the bear Friday, but at that time the bear was not inside the city limits and was not causing any disturbance. Sunday morning, the bear was reported moving through the town.
“This young male bear was likely looking for an easy food source,” Bowyer said. “Unfortunately there can be things like trash and other smelly items in town that might seem like food to a bear.”
MDC protocol when responding to nuisance bears usually begins with harassment of the animal in efforts to encourage it to travel elsewhere. Harassment means shooting it with rubber bullets and other techniques.
However, the situation evolved quickly as the bear moved into more populated areas and normal protocol was not an option at that point.
“We can’t say that there was any other option for this bear once he was in the center of town, near children and with no safe direction for it to go,” Bowyer said.
Although chemical immobilization might seem like an alternative, local MDC personnel don’t have immediate access to the equipment necessary to sedate a bear.
“There’s a lot of logistics that go into sedating an actively moving animal,” Bowyer said. “You have to have proper equipment and you also have to do what’s right for the animal.”
According to MDC Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer, who heads up the Missouri Bear Project, there is risk in tranquilizing a free roaming bear.
“If a bear runs off after being tranquilized and you don’t see where it goes it may die, it could drown, it could fall with its head downhill and suffocate,” Beringer said. “Additionally, if you miss your shot at the bear you risk losing a drug filled dart and that’s a bad situation.”
Furthermore, sedation takes time to take effect on an animal, which means aggravating an animal that is already stressed.
Beringer and Bowyer agree the lesson to take from this encounter is for everyone to do their part to keep bears wild by ensuring that trash, dog food, bird food and other possible food sources are put where bears can’t gain access to them.
“Bears are quick learners and they’ll return time and time again if they’ve been trained on where to find a treat,” Beringer said. “Then before too long we’re called in to deter the bear when it’s become a problem.”
Bowyer said this bear story shouldn’t cause people to be afraid of bears.
“Bears are generally secretive animals,” Bowyer said. “This one just happened to be in the wrong place and got himself into a situation he couldn’t get out of.”