Home Animals Black Bears in Missouri (Diet, Lifestyle, Habitat, more)

Black Bears in Missouri (Diet, Lifestyle, Habitat, more)


Bears are stunning animals that have recently made a return to Missouri. An exciting development for the conservation of bears in Missouri, the American black bear is coming back in numbers, with over 500 individuals already inhabiting the state’s diverse ecosystems. Every year more and more of these amazing creatures are being spotted, far away from where they naturally originated.

Black Bears in Missouri

Are there Black bears in Missouri?

It is true that black bears are in fact present in Missouri. They were once a threatened species, due to habitat loss and killing by people. Yet over the years, their population has significantly risen to an estimated population of more than 500 bears today spread across Missouri. 

Where are bears located in Missouri?

Missouri was home to both black and grizzly bears, though they are quite uncommon. As a species that nearly became extinct in Missouri during the 20th century, their current population is small, likely due to hunting and other disturbances of their habitats. Black bears mainly live in areas near the Arkansas border and tend to be located within the Mark Twain National Forest. 


Adapting to an array of habitats, black bears can be found in many Missouri communities ranging from the Ozark Mountains to the western and riparian parts of the state. Although they mostly occupy habitats with trees, rods, water sources and dense undergrowth, they are still capable of living in more open terrain if it provides them with food and cover. Contrary to popular belief, black bears do not hibernate in Missouri but may become dormant or sluggish when food or shelter is limited or temperatures drop during winter months. 

black bears in open


Black bears in Missouri are opportunistic feeders and eat fruits, nuts, insects, honey and anything else that will provide them with sustenance. In the summer months, they prefer to consume plant foods such as berries or other sweet material whilst, during the winter, they tend to dine on carrion and small prey such as rodents or deer.


While black bears tend to appear monochromatic, their fur coat is actually composed of many shades of dark brown, ranging in colour from light brown to jet black. Black bears are not albinos, although they can have white patches that can usually be found on their chests and sometimes their feet and muzzle. A black bear’s colouration offers the ultimate camouflage in Missouri’s diverse and lush landscapes, making it easier for them to hide from predators and raiders. 

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

The average black bear will weigh between 150 to 600 pounds, or even more in some cases. In terms of length, an adult black bear can have a total standing size of 3 to 7 feet. Furthermore, black bears are long-lived species with a lifespan of approximately 15 – 25 years when living in the wild, and up to 30 years when in captivity. 

Bears in wild


Bears in Missouri have the occasional run-in with some of their more vicious predators, such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Fortunately for the bears, they are generally much larger than their predators and can often repel the attack. Still, if the predator sees an opportunity like a bear cub being left alone for even just a few minutes it might rush in to feed or carry away the smaller animal.

This is something all bear families should keep in mind when venturing into Missouri’s forests and mountain ranges; while they may never see any of these predators on their travels, they must still be aware that they could be nearby lurking in shadows or behind tall grasses.


Black bears are equipped with sophisticated reproductive strategies that have allowed the species to thrive, even in the face of intense competition for resources. Their mating period starts in mid-May, although different populations have slight variations in timing. During this time, female bears will mate with multiple males and store sperm from each mating until wintertime when she enters into a state of delayed implantation.

This means that although her body can hold onto multiple sets of sperm at once, it won’t begin the process of producing cubs until later on in the year. A few months after entering hibernation, she’ll give birth to litters averaging two cubs (though litters can range between one and four). The mother bear will raise these cubs on her own over the winter before they venture out on their own come springtime.


How many bears are in Missouri?

Currently, there are an estimated more than 500 black bear individuals inhabiting small parts of southeast Missouri, according to a report published by the Missouri Department of Conservation in 2018. The black bear population has started to increase over the past decade due to its protection under state law and conservation efforts being made throughout the area. 

Do black bears hibernate in Missouri?

The answer is yes, the black bears of Missouri do hibernate. During this period of sleep, the animals can go into torpor where their body temperature drops and their heart rate and breathing slow down, involving significantly fewer calories than regular activity does. Hibernation also allows these creatures to survive longer through the winter season when food and resources are scarce for them in the cold weather. 





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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.


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