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The first bear-trapping season ended successfully in Fall 2010, with a total of 26 bears captured and 13 bears fitted with GPS collars. All 13 bears were captured in the southwest part of the state.
With the help of numerous MDC Regional Staff, MSU field technicians, volunteers, and private land owners, a total of 378 hair snares were constructed during May throughout the southwestern region of Missouri. Black bear hair samples will be collected from June 16th to July 31st. In addition, 122 remote cameras were set to capture bear activity and behavior at hair snare sites located in GPS collared bear home ranges. Twelve bears were captured and fitted with GPS collars (8 in the SW region, 4 in the south-central region) in June. Locations of collared bears will be recorded every 10 minutes from May 30th to July 28th, providing a detailed look at bear movements during the hair snare experiment.
During 2014, we captured and radiomarked 20 individual bears. From 2010 to 2014, we captured and radiomarked 72 black bears (31 F, 41 M) and have accumulated over 100,000 locations from GPS collars.
We published our results (see Literature page) on black bear distribution and population estimation. The distribution of black bear sightings during 1989–2010 indicated most black bears occurred in southern and eastern Missouri. We identified 25 (11 F, 14 M) and 90 (59 F, 31 M) individual bears at hair snares during 2011 and 2012, respectively. The overall density was 1.7 bears per 100 km2 (95% CI = 1.1–2.4) and the current population estimate for south-central Missouri (our 16,812 km2 study area) is 279 bears (95% CL = 193–406).
During January–March 2015, we visited dens to replace collars, check bear health, and check for cubs. Litter size ranged from 0 to 3 and the cub sex ratio was 14 M:6 F for 19 female bears. We are also collecting data at den sites to measure den-site attributes and assess den-selection patterns by bears. As of June 25, we captured 24 black bears, including some recaptures from previous years, to continue our efforts to collect data on demographics, movements, and habitat use using GPS-marked bears. Our captures have included the first female bear captured north of Highway 60 in southwestern Missouri.
We published our results (see Literature page) on testing hypotheses related to space use. We found males used larger home ranges, a potential result of sexual-size dimorphism, and areas with higher diversity of land cover. Subadults generally had inconsistent use in both sizes and spatial configurations of home ranges. Our results support the hypothesis that increasing landscape heterogeneity (habitat fragmentation) results in increasing space use. Check back for more results and updates from publications in press or in preparation.
Our project was also featured on episode #112 of The Habit (thehabit.tv), a hunting show on the Sportsman Channel. The show hosts enjoyed some time on our study to collect data on denning bears. See thehabit.tv/bios/chuck-belmore/18-predator for a brief video clip.
Below you will find links to news articles about Missouri's black bear study.
Missouri Tracks Black Bears to Determine Population
Missouri Department of Conservation Begins Black Bear Study
Bear Trapping Uncovers Clues About Species in Missouri
Biologists Say Missouri Could See Bear Hunt
Missouri Tracking Black Bears for Study
Under the Microscope
Bear Tagging Tag Along in the Missouri Ozarks