Return of the Bruin: Missouri Black Bear Project

Since 2011, SCI Foundation has partnered with Missouri Department of Conservation and Mississippi State University’s Carnivore Ecology Lab on the Missouri Black Bear Project.


When Europeans began settling the area, black bears were widespread in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. At the time, this region held perhaps the largest black bear population in North America. In fact, black bears were once so abundant, and their harvest so large, that the town of Oil Trough, Arkansas obtained its name from the trough in the center of town used to collect bear fat that had been rendered into lard. But black bears had almost completely vanished from the region by the 1930’s, due to a century of unsustainable over-harvest and habitat changes that accompanied European settlement and logging.

Beginning in the late 1950’s and continuing into the 1960’s, Arkansas reintroduced black bears from populations in Minnesota and Manitoba. This reintroduction was so successful that bears have naturally expanded their range northward into Missouri and westward into Oklahoma. The overall Ozark population is now thought to number more than 3,000

In an effort to understand the dynamics of the ongoing black bear recovery, SCIF and our partners are studying bear habitat use and survival, and obtaining accurate population estimates in order to help the Missouri Department of Conservation develop a black bear management plan. Black bears are doing well in Missouri, and we expect that in the near future a limited hunting season will return for Missouri bears for the first time in nearly a century.

The following short videos are the first in a series that highlight the Missouri Black Bear Project and document the return of the bruin.

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Additional support for this project was made possible by a grant from the Hunter Legacy Fund. 100HLFlogo3