Missourians are likely to see more bears than usual this fall because record-breaking cold in early April nearly destroyed the crop of acorns from white oak trees.
"Acorns typically make up about 90 percent of the food that bears consume just before going into winter dormancy," said state official Rex Martensen. "Most bears are in hibernation by Dec. 1. In the two or three months leading up to that, they may spend 20 hours a day gorging on acorns."
The loss of their staple food means lean times for Missouri's estimated 150 to 300 black bears. That, in turn, means bears are more likely to come into contact with people as they roam widely in search of food.
Sometimes bears grow hungry enough to visit human habitations in spite of people's best efforts not to tempt them. When this happens, wildlife damage biologists have several ways of sending bears back where they belong - to the woods.
Harassment with pyrotechnics is enough to discourage most bears. If that isn't enough, the Conservation Department traps nuisance bears and moves them to new areas.
Missouri has two areas where bears are fairly common. One is the part of southwest Missouri around Barry, Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Stone, Taney and Webster counties. The other is the part of the eastern Ozarks around Carter, Crawford, Iron, Oregon, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon and Washington counties.
Bears occasionally turn up north of the Missouri River or near the state's eastern and western borders, but such instances are rare.