When is the last time you saw a bear? No, I don't mean Yogi Bear on a Saturday morning cartoon. A real, breathing live bear? If you're camping in Missouri your chances of seeing one are getting greater.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC),  Missouri’s growing population of about 800 black bears have left their winter dens with some wandering great distances in search of food, territory, and mates. So the MDC is reminding everyone "Be Bear Aware."

Black bears is the only type of bears you'll see in Missouri but sometimes their coats are brown, cinnamon, and red. If you're out camping or hiking through wooded areas, your chances of coming upon black bears are greater south of the Missouri river and even better south of the I-44 corridor.

With it being springtime and bears coming out of hibernation, according to MDC Resource Scientist and Furbearer and Black Bear Biologist Laura Conlee:

“Bears are hungry and searching for food. Yearling bears are starting to wander from where they were born seeking food and areas to settle. Adult males begin moving large distances in search of females.”

A reminder from the Missouri Department of Conservation, intentionally feeding bears can be dangerous as it makes the bears comfortable around people. The MDC goes on to say when bears are fed by humans they lose their fear, i.e., they become comfortable. Unfortunately, they will then approach humans searching for more food. The bears then become dangerous as they feel the need to defend the area. At this point the bear cannot be relocated and has to be destroyed. Conlee goes on to say, "A fed bear is a dead bear."

For more information on Missouri black bears and how to Be Bear Aware, visit mdc.mo.gov/reportbears.

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