As the Missouri Department of Conservation’s study of the state’s bear population continues, Texas County is now on the list of counties where a bear has been caught.
A two-year-old male black bear weighing in at 146 pounds was trapped Oct. 3 in the Gist Ranch Conservation Area in the southeastern portion of the county. The MDC found out about the bear’s presence from a landowner who called Sept. 14 and reported seeing it in his front yard.
While the bear was the first to be trapped in Texas County, it was already familiar to the MDC. The same animal was caught twice in Webster County, once in September of 2010 and again on June 8 of this year.
Travis Mills, of the MDC office in Houston, said that when the bear was caught this month, it was close to 60 miles as the crow flies from where it was previously trapped.
“That’s not that unusual for these young male bears,” Mills said. “They disperse – and that’s part of what this study is all about, learning about their dispersal.
“The females pretty much stay local, but when mama kicks the males off, they have to go and find their own home.”
When the bear was first caught in 2010, it weighed only about 40 pounds and was too small to be fitted with a GPS collar. It was up to 112 pounds when it was trapped again, and was collared.
Somehow, the bear eventually parted ways with its collar. The MDC retrieved the expensive piece of electronics, but had lost its connection to the bear.
But having been trapped again this month, the “sub-adult” bear is back in the MDC family and can be tracked by a new GPS collar. Despite having shed its high-tech jewelry, the bear could be identified in its third capture through hair and tissue samples taken during previous encounters.
Mills said the technique used to trap a bear involves first getting it used to approaching bait, then making it accustomed to going in and out of an open trap, and finally setting the trap to close when the bear goes inside. Digital game cameras are employed to monitor the bear’s activity in and around the trap before the decision is made to set the trigger.
Bait used usually consists of Krispy Kreme donuts that have been marked for disposal by the company.
“They absolutely love them,” Mills said. “We fill a truck with them in Springfield and take them to all the counties where the study is going on.”
Throughout the MDC’s bear study project area (which basically covers most of the southern part of the state), 45 individual bears have now been trapped. On the same day the bear was caught in Texas County, another was caught in Shannon County. The MDC was watching another bear this summer south of Cabool, but the decision was made not to trap it due to concern for the animal’s well being because of extremely hot temperatures during the period.
Mills said that at one point, more than 30 bait set-ups were scattered around Texas County in an attempt to find bears.
“The Cabool bear was the only one we got a hit on,”
Mills said, “so we pulled everything else. That didn’t work out because of the weather, but then we got onto this Gist Ranch bear.”
To lure in the Gist bear, three bait sites were set up in a triangular pattern around the landowner’s home. After about a week and a half, the bear took the donut at one of them.
“Then we brought in the trap and got him comfortable going in and out,” Mills said. “When we set the trap to close, we had him the next morning.”
Bait is checked once a day during the period of getting a bear used to being around a trap, but it’s checked twice a day when the trap is set for capture, insuring the bear isn’t stuck inside for too long.
“The well-being of the bear is always our priority,” Mills said.
Both the Gist Ranch capture and the Shannon County catch were documented by National Geographic Channel camera crews and will appear on the network in the future.
Theyabsolutely love them,” Mills said. “We fill a truck with them inSpringfield and take them to all the counties where the study isgoing on.”