I Am Conservation

Spencer Lynch, an MDC resource assistant involved with black bear research, holds a bear cub while doing a den survey. Lynch said that sometimes a bear den will be in a pile of brush, but other times it will be 20 feet up inside a hollow tree. “We start by getting a good idea of where there is a potential den by tracking the bear with a GPS collar,” said Lynch. “Once the bear is located, we will very quietly approach it and dart it with a tranquilizer rifle. After the bear is anesthetized, we will gather any cubs in the den and determine their sex and weight and take a hair sample. We then fit the mother with a new GPS collar and quickly reunite her with her cubs.” Lynch said the goal of the research is to get a better population estimate of black bear in Missouri. They are also gathering information on the habits and characteristics of that population, such as bear movements, dispersal, denning preferences, sex ratio, genetic diversity and age. Lynch said he considers himself lucky to be helping ensure the presence of bears in Missouri for generations to come. “Growing up in southwest Missouri, I always hoped I would get a chance to just see a black bear someday,” said Lynch. “I never thought I would be lucky enough to be crawling in and out of their dens with cubs in my arms.” For more information on bears in Missouri, visit fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/mo_bear/. -Photo by David Stonner