Camping in Black Bear Country
To fully enjoy your camping or outdoor experience in bear country (which could be any county in Missouri), follow the Ten Commandments of Camping.
- Keep a clean camp. Food and all items that come in contact with food carry odors that bears find attractive.
- Thoroughly clean all utensils immediately after use. Never deposit food residues such as cooking grease in campfires.
- Place garbage where bears cannot smell or gain access to it, either in bear-proof containers or dumpsters. DON'T burn or bury garbage. Bears will dig it up.
- Do not eat or cook in your tent. Avoid storing food or attractants in tents, sleeping bags or backpacks. Suspend such items from trees when backpacking.
- Treat nonfood items such as gum, soap, toothpaste or deodorant as food. They are attractive to a bear's acute sense of smell.
- Immediately store food articles (including pet food, livestock feed and garbage) in airtight containers after every use. Coolers are not airtight, and bears often associate them with food. Secure coolers in a locked trunk or truck cab concealed from view.
- Plan your meals. Generate as little food garbage as possible.
- Never attempt to feed a bear or any other wild animal.
- Never approach wildlife, especially black bears. They are dangerous.
- Keep your dog on a leash and clean up leftover food and scraps after your dog has finished eating.
Hiking/Fishing in Bear Country
Bears primarily inhabit the Ozark Region of southern Missouri, but there have been sightings in the northern part of the state.
- Normal trail noise should alert bears to your presence and prompt a bear to leave before you ever see it. Bears usually run and hide from people.
- Use caution in areas such as berry patches where bears are likely to venture.
- Never approach the animal, and observe it only from a distance. Make it aware of your presence by clapping, talking, singing or making other sounds.
- If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a calm, assertive and assuring voice.
If a Bear Comes into Camp
- Remain calm. Make the bear aware of your presence.
- Do not feed the bear! Bears leave more easily if they have not obtained food.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route.
- Yell, bang pots and pans, throw rocks, wave your arms or use an airhorn to scare the bear away.
- If the bear utters a series of huffs, snaps or pops its jaws, and swats the ground, you are too close. Slowly back away.
- If the bear will not leave, move to a car or building, if available. Notify authorities immediately if you encounter an aggressive or nonyielding bear.
- If a bear stands on its hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect smells in the air.
- Black bears will sometimes "bluff charge" when cornered, threatened or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, and then slowly back away.
If a Bear Seems Aggressive
Black bears almost never attack people. If you follow the precautions listed above, you probably won't have any trouble with bears. However, in the unlikely event that a black bear does attack, fight the bear aggressively with anything close at hand—rocks, sticks or even your fist. Black bears are usually intimidated by an aggressive counterattack.