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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Bear found outside Neosho

  • A black bear injured outside Neosho Wednesday could not be saved, but the species is making a comeback in Southwest Missouri.


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  • A black bear injured outside Neosho Wednesday could not be saved, but the species is making a comeback in Southwest Missouri.
    Newton County Deputy Scott Stanley was at Talley Tire getting his tires checked when the call came in that an injured black bear had been spotted just a few miles down the road. Stanley found the bear at about 1:30 p.m., just off Highway 60 north of HH, and called the Missouri Department of Conservation. The bear crossed the road heading south and was struck by an eastbound vehicle going up the hill. The bear’s hip appeared to be broken and, suspecting internal injuries, MDC officials recommended the bear be put down rather than suffer in the oppressive heat.
    This bear was the second of its kind this year euthanized after an encounter with a vehicle. In early May, another bear was hit by a vehicle near Sarcoxie on I-44, at mile marker 24. Both bears were young males, weighing about 150 pounds, said Scott Burger, Missouri Department of Conservation protection district supervisor.
    Had the bear been able to move, it could have been saved, but it could not use its hind legs, indicating a severe spinal injury or two broken legs.
    “The best thing in this case was to just go ahead and put it out of its misery,” Burger said.  
    Hair and tissue samples from the bear will go to state biologists as they build a database and the hide will be tanned for education purposes.
    Bears as road kill are an indication of an expanding population. The American black bear, or ursus americanus, is making a comeback in the area.
    The bears can stand 46-78 inches from nose to tail and can weigh 600 pounds. Kicked out of their home territory by dominant bears, yearling males are the roamers of the group. Arkansas reintroduced the species as their numbers declined and more and more bears are being found in Southwest Missouri as a result.
    “We’ve got a growing bear population,” Burger said. “We’ve had bears in Missouri for many years. The young males, they roam out of Arkansas, looking for new territories. We’re just experiencing an expanding population.”
    Each year there are more and more area bear sightings and Burger feels sure some of the cubs now are Missouri-born.
    “We’re monitoring them,” Burger said. “We do have a management plan in place. We didn’t stock them. We didn’t bring them back. They’ve come back on their own.”
    This year, Missouri conservationists are initiating a study where they will live trap bears and equip them with radio collars. Estimates several years ago put the number at 300 bears, but they have increased.
    “Right now we can’t really say how many we think we have,” Burger said. “It’s a guess. It’s a growing population from the number of reports we get each year and, obviously, road kill like this.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Bear-proofing is something to consider for people in a rural area or on the outskirts of town. Bears, like any other wild animal, will take a free meal if they can, Burger said. Cat food stored outside, birdfeeders and garbage hold a special attraction for the bears. While they are not aggressive and can typically be frightened off with any loud noise, feeding the bears can create a problem.
    “They’ll lose that human fear, then they’ll become a nuisance bear,” Burger said.
    Those bears have to be trapped and relocated, but if the damage is too severe they may be put down. Rural areas will see more bears, but Burger did respond to a call earlier this year in Seligman where a bear was trapped in a tree in the middle of town.
    The Newton County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Conservation responded to the Neosho accident.
    “People need to be aware and not only watch for deer, but watch for bears coming out,” Burger said. “They can move pretty quick.”
    Injured animals can also be a road hazard and Burger advised that motorists should call the authorities if they hit a deer or black bear. Hunting black bear is illegal in Missouri, but there is no penalty for accidentally hitting one.
    To report a black bear sighting call the Joplin office at 629-3423 or the MDC Southwest Regional Office at 895-6880.
    Facts about the black bear
    • Ursus americanus is the scientific name for the species;
    • Black Bears were nearly extinct in Missouri by 1880;
    • A footprint from the bear’s back leg can be 7-inches long, but their forepaws are smaller;
    • Bears can be 46-78-inches from snout to tail and weigh 600 pounds or more;
    • They look pigeon-toed and bowlegged when they walk;
    • Black bears eat grass, berries, bark, ants, honey, grasshoppers, fish, mice, eggs and carrion;
    • Black bears are the only species of bear found in Missouri, most of their territory is south of the Missouri River.

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