Be Bear Aware

Guidelines to stay safe in bear country

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Photo of a female American black bear
Black Bear sow, Forsyth, MO
Noppadol Paothong

Black bears are an exciting part of Missouri’s natural history, and they’re making a comeback in the southern part of the state. Follow these guidelines to Be Bear Aware – stay safe in bear country, and keep our bears wild.

Report all bear sightings to Missouri Department of Conservation staff.

Be Bear Aware while hiking or camping

Stay alert and avoid confrontation

  • Make noise so you don’t surprise a bear – clap, sing, or talk loudly. Travel in a group if possible.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and watch for bear sign such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.
  • Keep dogs leashed.
  • If you see a bear, leave it alone! Do not approach it. Make sure it has an escape route.

If you encounter a bear up close

  • Never corner a bear – make sure it has an escape route.
  • Back away slowly with your arms raised.
  • Speak in a calm, loud voice.
  • Do not turn your back to the bear.
  • Walk away slowly – DO NOT RUN.

Odors attract bears

  • Keep a clean campsite. Follow these guidelines when camping in black bear country.
  • Store all food and toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees.
  • Store garbage securely in a vehicle or strung high between two trees. Never burn or bury garbage or food waste.

A fed bear is a dead bear

  • Never feed a bear!
  • Feeding bears makes them lose their natural fear of humans, and teaches them to see humans as food providers. They will learn to go to places like homes, campsites, and neighborhoods to look for food, instead of staying in the forest.
  • A bear that has gotten used to getting food from humans may become aggressive and dangerous. When this happens, the bear has to be destroyed.
  • Help bears stay wild and healthy, and keep yourself and your neighbors safe. Don’t feed bears.

Be Bear Aware on your property

  • Never feed a bear, on purpose or accidentally.
  • Don’t leave pet food sitting outside. Feed pets a portion they’ll eat at each meal and remove the empty containers.
  • Store garbage, recyclables, and compost inside a secure building or in a bear-proof container until the day of trash pick-up.
  • Keep grills and smokers clean and store them inside.
  • Don’t use birdfeeders from April through November in bear country. If you must, hang them at least 10 feet high and 4 feet away from any structure.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, orchards, and other potential food sources. Get more detailed tips on black bear control, including electric fencing.
  • Contact your county Conservation Agent for help with making your property unwelcoming to bears.

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The 250-pound mother bear watches warily as the author takes her picture.
On Alert
Wary of human visitors, the 250-pound black bear keeps an eye on the photographer.
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