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 address potential future bear issues, resource personnel from the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, United States Forest Service, and the National Park Service identified key information needs to minimize conflicts with human while encouraging population expansion into suitable habitats.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) initially collaborated with the Carnivore Ecology Laboratory (CEL) at Mississippi State University, and the University of Missouri, to identify individual bears and their sex from DNA obtained from hair samples collected at hair snare sites in Missouri. This allowed for an estimate of the minimum population of bears in Missouri. This phase of the project has been completed (see Literature page for more information). The current phase of this project continues with MDC and CEL estimating survival, recruitment, and movements of black bears. 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.