JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Wildlife officials in Missouri have a piece of advice for people enjoying the great outdoors this spring: Beware of bears!
The notice comes after a black bear was spotted by a school bus driver in Seymour, Missouri, around 40 miles east of Springfield. The bus driver was on her way back to the bus barn when the bear crossed the road in front of her, then climbed a nearby tree and fell asleep.
The bear eventually woke up and ran back into the woods.
According to resource scientists Jeff Beringer with the Missouri Department of Conservation, sightings like these have grown more frequent in recent years due to a gradual increase in the number of bears in the Show-Me State. Some of Missouri’s bears have come from Arkansas, which conducted a successful bear reintroduction program in the 1960s.
Beringer says that the great majority of bears in Missouri live south of I-44, but sightings have been confirmed in every part of the state. He says that he has serious concerns about the interactions between bears and humans, especially when human-related food sources.
“There’s definitely an element of truth in the old saying that ‘a fed bear is a dead bear,'” says Beringer in a statement. “Bears that get used to finding food around homes, businesses and campgrounds often come to grief. Those situations can be dangerous for people, too.”
Beringer says that pet food, livestock feed, birdseed, sugar water in hummingbird feeders and garbage all are tempting to hungry bears.
“Bears are more visible this time of year because they have been fasting all winter, and many of their natural food sources, such as berries and nuts, aren’t available yet,” says Beringer. “Bears are constantly on the move, and they will check out anything that smells like it might be good to eat.”
For more information about black bears in Missouri, click here.