Bears had nearly vanished from Missouri by 1940 but began to recolonize during the 1960s following reintroductions in Arkansas. During the last 50 years, the bear population has increased and so has interest in the species. In an effort to proactively address bear issues, resource personnel from the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, United States Forest Service, and the National Park Service have identified key information needs to minimize conflicts with human while encouraging population expansion into suitable habitats.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has contracted with Mississippi State University to identify individual bears and their sex from DNA obtained from hair samples collected at hair snare sites in Missouri. Collaborators from the University of Missouri will genotype the collected hair samples. This information will allow Mississippi State University scientists to determine the minimum number of bears in the state. Data from this project will be used as baseline information for a comprehensive black bear management strategy. The information gained from this research will be crucial in designing conservation strategies to manage black bears consistent with available habitat and within limits of human tolerance.