Bear With Me
St. Louisans are atwitter with news of a bear sighting in the suburb of Ballwin. This is exciting, though not surprising, since bears have been moving north from Arkansas since being introduced there about 50 years ago. Here's a video of the bear sighting and some good info about the increase in bear sightings. The best info on Missouri bear sightings is on the Department of Conservation's website. They've been tracking bears for years and as you can see from their map, bear sightings are increasing.
The most important thing to remember about these bears are that they are black bears. It is almost unheard of for black bears to harm humans. These aren't grizzlies. Grizzlies will try to rip your head off unprovoked, but their US habitat is now restricted to the Northern Rockies. Keep small kids and pets close and don't leave your trash out if there's been a black bear sighting recently and you should be fine.
Hiking and backpacking with black bears is safe. If you're concerned about bears, the best thing to do when backpacking is to hang your food and scented items (sunscreen, floss, deodorant) before you get into your tent. I've had success with this method. Watch this video a few times before you head out on your trip and with a little practice it's not difficult.
I have yet to see a bear in the wild in Missouri, and I can't wait. They are beautiful animals. I was lucky enough to see a few on a backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park in 2011 and it was really special. See some of my pics from that trip below.