Missouri Black Bear Project

Project Lead

  • Laura Conlee
  • Jerrold Belant

Project Partners

  • SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program
female black bear with 2 newborn cubs

Project Summary

Black bears are an important resource in Missouri for their value as a game species and their contributions to regional biodiversity and ecosystem health. However, bears may also be regarded as a nuisance by the general public. Therefore, it is imperative to have management strategies in place to ensure sustainable population levels while minimizing conflicts with humans and assuring public safety. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has identified regulated hunting as part of its management strategy to maintain a viable black bear population compatible with habitat and human tolerance. Implementation of effective harvest strategies requires sound information on black bear demographics including abundance, sex ratios, population growth rate, and spatial distribution emphasizing resource use across Missouri.

Initial population research, which began in 2010, suggested a 2012 statewide estimated population of just under 300 bears. In order to model statewide bear numbers and estimate population trajectory, MDC began a project to measure reproductive and survival rates of female bears in Missouri. This black bear population model will be used to predict growth and trajectory of Missouri’s black bear population. Current plans are to propose a limited harvest once bear numbers exceed 500 animals. Other research objectives include measuring black bear habitat use and movement patterns, identifying suitable but unoccupied habitat and to delineate travel corridors that link large tracts of suitable bear habitat in the state. Since the initiation of the Missouri black bear research project in 2010 through June 30, 2017, MDC has marked 145 black bears and has deployed collars on over 90 bears. Female bears will be monitored in the winter den to assess cub production, cub sex ratios and cub survival, in addition to survival, habitat use, and movements. Males will be monitored to assess survival, habitat use, movements, and breeding range.

Project Updates

2017 Project Update

Winter den checks allow MDC to assess the condition of the sow, adjust or change her radio collar if necessary, determine how many cubs or yearlings are with her in the den, and mark any young that can be handled.

Project Datasets

No datasets have been added to this project.

Project Papers & Presentations


Mammals, Wildlife Research


black bear