Trail cams capture two black bears in northern St. Francois County, setting off local social media discussion
Jeannie Barton-Northrup, email@example.com
Recent Facebook posts have people chatting about black bears captured on trail cameras in St. Francois and Washington counties. Many people asked about the location of the bears, while many others discouraged releasing the site information. One person said he would set apples in his yard for them and turn them into pets.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) tracks bear populations and has developed a Black Bear Range Map. The map shows St. Francois County is an expansion range for black bears while the surrounding counties of Iron, Jefferson, and Washington are core home areas. This means black bears have settled into surrounding counties and have decided St. Francois looks like a nice place to live, too.
Trail camera photos show several black bears roaming through Missouri woodlands. The post originators say trail cameras took the pictures in prime hunting locations, and the sites are being kept secret. The posters wish to keep the bears and their hunting grounds safe.
The MDC provides information about black bears on their bear awareness web page at mdc.mo.gov/wildlife/wildlife-facts/be-bear-aware. Here are a couple of topics highlighted on the page:
“A Fed Bear Is a Dead Bear”
The MDC strongly discourages feeding a bear on purpose or accidentally. According to the MDC, feeding bears makes them lose a natural fear of humans and teaches them to depend on humans for food. When this happens, bears are more likely to go to homes, campsites, and neighborhoods to find food instead of staying in the forest.
The website states that bears used to being fed by humans can become aggressive and dangerous and must be destroyed when this happens. Help is requested to keep bears wild and healthy and people safe by not feeding bears. A few tips are given to prevent unintentional feeding:
- Feed pets only what they will eat at each meal and remove empty containers. Do not leave pet food sitting outside.
- Store garbage, recyclables, and compost inside a secure building or in a bear-proof container until trash pick-up day.
- Keep grills and smokers clean and store them inside.
- When using a bird feeder from April through July, hang them at least 10 feet high and 4 feet away from any structure.
- Use electric fencing to keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, orchards, and other potential food sources.
Contact your county MDC agent with questions about protecting food sources from black bears.
Be Bear Aware While Hiking or Camping
According to the MDC, the best way to avoid conflict with a bear is by staying alert and avoiding it. Avoiding is done by making noise —clapping, singing, or talking loudly— and traveling in a group. Keep dogs leashed, and stay alert by looking around for signs of bear activity, such as tracks, and claw or bite marks on trees.
If you see a bear, the MDC suggests you leave it alone and ensure it has an escape route — never corner a bear. The website says to speak in a calm, loud voice; back away slowly with your arms raised — do not run; and do not turn your back to the bear.
The MDC recommends keeping a clean campsite by washing utensils, pots, and pans after use. Food, garbage, and toiletries, like toothpaste and deodorant, should be stored in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees.
These are the basics of bear awareness. For more detailed information, go to the MDC site mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/activities/camping/camping-hiking-black-bear-country.