They’re awake. They’re hungry. And they’ve come calling in some neighborhoods. But if you see one, keep your distance. Some Missourians here and there are coming across black bears…..or black bears are coming across them.
The conservation department thinks there are fewer than 500 of them, almost all of them south of the Missouri River, most south of Interstate 44. But one has recently has been sighted by several people in Jefferson County, south of St.Louis. Other bears have been seen in the Ozarks.
The conservation department’s Dave Hamilton fields calls from people who see them. Taking pictures from a safe distance is okay. Otherwise, he says, don’t get too close. He says people should not try to feed them. He says garbage cans, bird feeders, barbecue grills and oather items that smell like food can attract bears. He says people seeing a bear should make sure none of those items is available to the animals.
Hamilton says they will accept handouts. But fhe recalls there’s a motto—"a fed bear is a dead bear." Cuteness quickly wears thin when a bear starts relying on a person for food, and moving the bear somewhere else just moves the problem. Dependent bears usually have to be killed.
He says the best thing to do if you see one of these critters is to call the Conservation Department…The department’s agents know what to do.