For nearly a century, the only bears known to reside in Missouri were on the state flag or in captivity. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss had wiped out most black bears in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma by the 1920s. But thanks to a reintroduction program in Arkansas during the 50s and 60s, hundreds of bears amble through the forests of southern Missouri. MU Associate Professor of Biology Lori Eggert participated in a joint study of black bears by University of Missouri, Mississippi State University, and Missouri Department of Conservation biologists. Eggert tells KZIM KSIM the bear population is still small, but outdoor recreationists and homeowners should take precautions in the Ozark forest to avoid attracting bears. Black bears normally do not attack humans, but they will ransack picnic baskets, tear through garbage bags or even enter buildings looking for food. Although some Missourians may be concerned, the study reveals the return of black bears to Missouri is actually a good sign. It means parts of the state’s forests are returning to a healthy biological balance after nearly two centuries of intensive logging and exploitation. If you want more information on black bears and black bear safety, go to MDC.gov.
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