We are going to see more black bears in the Joplin area, and we should consider precautions to limit potential negative outcomes for both residents and the bears.
A number of residents were upset by the actions that recently led to a bear’s demise. Some commented on the Globe's story about it as well as on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website, or sent emails or called, after the agency euthanized the bear. Letters about the incident also were sent to Gov. Mike Parson.
MDC reviewed the events and decisions that led to the euthanization of a black bear captured July 11 in Joplin and found that the department’s guidelines were followed. The review showed that no zoo or animal sanctuary was prepared to lawfully receive the animal.
According to MDC, as Missouri’s black bear population is growing, the range of black bears is expanding. Black bear sightings are becoming more common, as are nuisance interactions with bears. They will raid birdfeeders, rummage through garbage and consume food left outdoors for pets. They will also raid outdoor storage bins for pet food or livestock feed. Bears have even taken poultry, as the bear in Joplin did.
The killing of the bear was unfortunate and a result of the animal becoming habituated to people and our properties as a source for food. Once this happens, it is hard to reverse. But there are steps we can take to keep bears wild and reduce the chance that the tragic outcome will be repeated.
MDC offers a number of tips to keep us and the bear safe. The most important thing is to never feed bears. The department puts it starkly: A fed bear is a dead bear.
While sightings are more likely on the outskirts of town, bears have entered urban zones, particularly near wooded areas. To reduce the threat of habituation, especially if a bear has been sighted nearby, remove or secure items that can attract bears. Don’t feed birds in the spring or summer or secure the feeders. Avoid feeding pets outdoors, and store pet food indoors.
Secure your trash. If possible, don’t put it out until shortly before scheduled pickup.
Electric fencing can be used to secure bee hives, chicken coops and even dumpsters. If you use one, maintain your fence and keep it charged. Only store animal feed in secure containers, in secure outbuildings or behind electric fencing.
If a bear does show up and access food, remove the food or secure it. The bear is likely to return. Don’t let the bear develop a habit of getting food at your place.
MDC says feeding bears makes them lose their natural fear of humans, and teaches them to see us as food providers. A bear that has gotten used to getting food from humans can become aggressive and dangerous.
Let’s stop that from happening. Seeing a bear can be an awesome experience — seeing one destroyed, not so much.