Increased bear sightings don't faze campers

Beth (left) and Mike Yancey cook dinner at Lake of the Ozarks State Park Wednesday evening. The Yanceys said increased black bear sightings don't bother them, but campers should make sure to secure their food. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

A camping couple on Wednesday said increased bear sightings are a reminder to keep food locked up when you're outdoors.

Beth and Mike Yancey live in De Soto, where a black bear wandered through a Wal-Mart parking lot four years ago. Beth said she drove past the store mere minutes after the sighting.

"It's their territory. It's their place to be," she said.

Mike said he's gotten even closer. While hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains a few years ago, he ran into a black bear sow and her cub.

"Once she got the little cub clear of me, she came back down on a rock and started clapping her teeth," he said.

Mike got away without incident. After seeing another bear on his way back to the car, he said he abandoned any further hiking plans that day.

As many as three black bears have been spotted in different parts of the state since the start of the week. A bear was found dead near Van Buren on Sunday, and one or two bears wandered through a mobile home park south of St. Louis on Monday.

The Department of Conservation said the state's bear population is increasing, but the mating season is the main cause of the recent spate of sightings. The department estimates about 300 bears live in Missouri, mostly south of Interstate 44.

Camping at Lake of the Ozarks State Park Wednesday evening, the Yanceys said they're not concerned by the increased sightings. They said the main thing is to avoid causing a conflict. Beth said they always bring a metal lockbox for their food or keep it in their camper.

"Make sure that you don't leave anything out," she said.

"Don't entice them."

The Department of Conservation said if a bear wanders through your campsite, yell and wave your arms to scare the bear away. If the bear acts aggressive or does not leave, slowly back away and call authorities.

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