A wildlife camera on a farm in Camden County captured an image of an animal rarely seen in the area — a bear.
The black bear, formally an Ursus americanus, was caught on camera on a small farm — owned by Gravois area resident Marvin Knapp — along the Niangua River.
Knapp says he allows a neighbor to hunt on the farm. The neighbor had the camera out and a blind up in the area for turkey season.
On the second day of the season, Knapp says, the man found the camera off the tree and the blind torn down. At first, they thought it was kids, but after reviewing the camera, they were surprised to see pictures of the bear.
Besides snapshots of the bear approaching the camera, there were several blurred pictures that were taken as the bear tore it off the tree, Knapp says.
The time stamp on the photos indicates the incident took place around 8:30 p.m. April 22.
According to the Missouri Black Bear Project, black bears have been naturally recolonizing the state over the past 50 years with the most sightings occurring in southern Missouri. This research project is a joint effort of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Mississippi State University and is being funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Restoration Program with help from Safari Club International Foundation.
The study attributes the resurgence of black bears in Missouri to a successful reintroduction program of black bears in Arkansas in the 1960s as well as improvements in forest habitat since the early 20th century.
Since 1987, more than 800 bear sightings have been recorded in 91 of the 114 counties in Missouri, according to the MDC.
While some of the bears may be from the Arkansas reintroduction program, a 2010 MDC article by Francia Skalicky suggests that the native Missouri black bear population did not completely disappear due to uncontrolled hunting and timber harvesting at the turn of the 20th century, but survived in remote areas of the state. Genetic information from a bear's hair sample collected on a farm in Webster County did not match that of the Arkansas bears, the article states.
The multi-year study of black bears in Missouri started in the fall of 2010. The project is seeking to provide more specifics on black bears in the state — such as how many there are, the extent of bear habitat, their travel corridors, when and where they den as well as survival rates and population growth.
The information will be used to design a conservation strategy to manage black bears based on available habitat and human tolerance.
The study covers 23 counties in southern and eastern Missouri. Research is done by trapping bears to collect biological information. The bears are then released.
Page 2 of 2 - Researchers also encourage people to report bear sightings in Missouri.
Go to www.fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/mo_bear/index.asp to read more about the study. There are also pictures and videos taken of black bears in Missouri.