On Monday, July 20, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff had the unfortunate responsibility of humanely euthanizing a 250-pound, healthy, adult, male black bear that had become an ongoing nuisance and threat to a homeowner in Christian County — because someone in the area had been feeding the animal.
The homeowner initially contacted MDC staff to report the nuisance animal and told staff that she had not fed the bear.
She then followed advice from MDC to remove any potential food sources for the animal — such as taking down bird feeders, keeping dog food inside, and keeping trash in closed containers and a secured building — but the bear continued to visit her home in search of food.
The family tried to drive the bear away during previous encounters but the bear kept returning, and unfortunately even began looking for food at a neighbor’s home.
On June 20, MDC staff captured the bear in a large cage trap placed in the homeowner’s yard. MDC staff noted that the bear showed little agitation toward staff while in the trap. This was not a good sign because it indicated that the bear had lost its fear of humans.
MDC staff confirmed that the bear had been ear-tagged in another part of Christian County as a yearling in 2012, and was among several bears that were previously fed by another homeowner.
According to MDC, the bear could not be relocated to a more remote location because once a bear associates people with food, it will continue to seek sources of food associated with people. This often leads to additional conflicts with people, which is what happened in this situation.
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MDC staff removed the trapped bear from the homeowner’s property and then euthanized the animal using sedative and lethal drug injections, similar to how pets are often “put to sleep.”
A fed bear is a dead bear
The Conservation Department strongly encourages people not to feed bears or make food available to them. Feeding bears makes the animals lose their fear of being around people and usually results in the bears becoming nuisance animals.
As in this unfortunate situation, a fed bear becomes a dead bear.
MDC offers the following tips to avoid conflicts with black bears:
• Do not feed birds and other wildlife from early spring through late fall, especially in rural areas. This often attracts bears. Bears are much less active during the winter, when supplemental feeding is more important for birds.
• Keep pet food and livestock feed inside secure containers and buildings. The same is true for barbecue grills and other items that smell like food.
• Trash should be kept in secured containers and buildings and put out as close to pick-up time as possible to minimize exposure to hungry bears.
• Campers and floaters should keep campsites clean of food and items that smell like food, pack and keep food in closed containers, place the food containers in secure locations away from the primary campsite, and dispose of garbage immediately.
• Keep bears wild by making encounters with humans a negative experience for the bear. If a bear approaches, scare it away by making loud noises and throwing objects such as rocks at it to help enforce its natural fear of people.
• For problems with a nuisance bear, contact the nearest MDC office or local conservation agent.