Nevada, Mo. – A black bear is wandering in rural Vernon County in west central Missouri. Several residents in the Walker community northeast of Nevada have reported seeing the bear. Conservation Agent Justin Fogle confirmed the sighting by finding bear tracks in a corn field on Wednesday, June 5.

Fogle said the bear was first reported to him on Tuesday. It was also spotted on Wednesday and today (June 7). The bear sightings are somewhat unusual because most of the state’s black bears reside in forested and rural counties in the Ozarks farther south and east. Isolated cases of black bears wandering north have occurred in the past.

Most bears shy away from people and pose little threat to humans and livestock. It’s a rarity to see one for most people. But where they are present, they should not be fed. They’re always looking for their next meal and can become a nuisance or even a danger if fed. It is illegal to kill a black bear in Missouri unless protecting human life or personal property.

Black bears are native to Missouri. But they were almost eliminated from the state after settlement in the 1800s and as habitat loss continued in the 1900s. Some bears returned to the state’s southern counties due to a re-introduction in Arkansas that began in the 1950s. Plus a recent black bear study by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has shown a small number of native bears may have survived in southern Missouri. In the past, biologists have estimated the state’s bear population at from 150 to 300 bears in scattered habitats. But the current study will help develop a more accurate population estimate and give a better idea where most of the state’s reclusive bears live.

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This press release provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation.