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University of Missouri

Bear Down, Bear Up

Black bears make their way back to Missouri.

black bears

After decades of much‐diminished numbers, black bears are making a comeback in Missouri, according to research by Lori Eggert, associate professor of biological sciences at MU. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.

he three bears — Gummi, Teddy and Smokey — have had the Show‐Me State pretty much to themselves since hunting and habitat loss nearly wiped out Missouri’s black bears by the 1950s.

However, the bears are making a comeback, according to a new study by biologist Lori Eggert at MU, Jeff Beringer at the Missouri Department of Conservation and Jerry Belant at Mississippi State University. An estimated 225 descendants of the holdouts along with bears released in Arkansas in the 1950s and ’60s are repopulating southern Missouri.

Eggert acknowledges that the bears’ return worries some people. But she says their presence is a good sign. “It means parts of the state’s forests are returning to a healthy biological balance after nearly two centuries of intensive logging.”