As summer turns to fall, Missouri’s estimated 350 native black bears enter a phase called hyperphagiain which they eat heavily, accumulating a layer of fat that results in a 30 percent weight gain preparing them for hibernation.

In preparation for hibernation, bears eat a wide variety of food including grasses and forbs, berries, ants, bees and wasps, beetles, crickets, fish, frogs, small rodents and other small animals.

Remember to be “bear aware” and the phrase, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Leaving food or garbage cans outside attracts bears, and thus feeding them makes them more comfortable being around humans.

Trust me, you don’t want that.

In recent years bears are being spotted in all kinds of places around the state, not just rural areas, including parking lots, cemeteries, crossing major highways, stairwells of apartment buildings, etc.

So, it’s entirely possible you could see a bear today, wherever you go. If you do, here are some tips offered by the MDC:

• Make noise while walking or hiking to prevent surprising a bear. Clap, sing, or talk loudly.

• Travel in a group, if possible.

• Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for bear sign, such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.

• Keep dogs leashed.

• Leave a bear alone! Do not approach it. Make sure it has an escape route.

• If encountering a bear up close, back away slowly with arms raised to look larger. Speak in a calm, loud voice. Do not turn away from the bear. Back away slowly. Do not run.

Jimmy Sexton

• Report bear sightings by calling the MDC at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3080.

• Also, please call the River Hills Traveler at (800) 874-8423, ext. 1, and report your sighting. We will inform our readers about it in our next issue. And if you were able to take any photos, without putting yourself in harm’s way, please text them to (417) 451-3798 or email jimmy@riverhillstraveler.com.

A native of Missouri, black bears were abundant throughout the state until the late 1800s when they were nearly wiped out from unregulated killing and from habitat loss when Ozark forests were logged.

MDC research shows that a small number of native black bears survived and others from Arkansas moved north into Missouri. Over time, their numbers increased and continue to do so.

Results of ongoing black-bear research by MDC staff and others show that the animals have been sighted in about half the counties in Missouri, primarily south of the Missouri River, with most bears located in the southern third of the state in the Missouri Ozarks.

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The MDC, Back Country Horsemen of Missouri (BCHMO), and the Summersville Saddle Club have opened nearly 12 miles of multi-use trails located on the Gist Ranch Conservation Area.

Gist Ranch is located in Texas County just northwest of Summersville off Highway 17.

Travis Mills, resource forester with MDC, and his work team spent time the past year enhancing an existing trail network as multi-use trails.

“We are happy to provide this recreational opportunity to a wide group of the public, including horseback riders, bicyclists, and hikers,” Mills said.

MDC welcomes volunteer help to maintain the trails on an ongoing basis. A partnership has been developed between the Summersville Saddle Club and MDC for ongoing maintenance of the trails.

Ronnie Harper, president of the Saddle Club, said the club is looking forward to a lasting relationship with MDC and that they will appreciate the opportunity to have trails close to home.

“I’m pleased to see these multi-use trails developed, and to have played a part with getting these organizations together to create a long-term partnership,” said John Turner, a representative of BCHMO.

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The 25th annual Let’s Go Fishing Show is scheduled for Jan. 5-7, 2018, at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, Ill. This fishing show attracts fishing enthusiasts from near and far.

Visitors to the show not only find a “fishing tackle super-store” but attend seminars and see exhibits (boats, fishing gear, resorts and destinations to visit & fish) of interest. We’ll have more on the show in our December issue.

Put the dates on your calendar and plan to attend. You won’t be disappointed, plus it’s a great way to help get over the post-holiday season blues.

(Jimmy Sexton is owner and publisher of the River Hills Traveler. He can be reached at (800) 874-8423, ext. 1, or jimmy@riverhillstraveler.com.)