Gainesville family finds black bear climbing tree outside their house

Amanda Goodman snapped this photo of a black bear in a tree in her yard last week.

One day last week Howards Ridge resident Amanda Goodman was at her house on County Road 529 off J Highway when her dog began barking insistently. At first, she didn’t think much of it.

“We just thought it was a neighbor dog coming down the road, so we didn’t give it much attention,” she told the Times. But after a few minutes of the dog’s persistence, Amanda’s daughter Charlotte, who was sitting in the family’s living room, looked out the front window and asked, “What is that?”

The family all went into the living room and peered out the window in the direction Charlotte was looking, but they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Still, the dogs continued barking. 

Charlotte got closer to the window and again asked, What is that?”

That’s when Amanda spotted just what Charlotte was looking at - a black bear was clinging onto a large tree in their front yard, climbing upward. 

“Our dogs Sal and Peppa were going crazy!” Amanda said. 

In contrast, the family’s other animals, a batch of goats and turkeys who were nearby, were all huddled together, dead silent. 

After realizing the cause of the commotion, Amanda dialed MDC Agent Jerry Kiger to report the bear, which had climbed up into the tree, safely sitting on a high limb, well out of the way of the barking dogs. 

“[Jerry] said from the looks of it, the bear appeared to be a male, about two or three, who probably got kicked out because of new babies and was trying to find a new place to call home,” she said. 

“I told them the best thing to do was to keep the dogs inside, and the bear would most likely go on its way,” Kiger told the Times. “Then I left them some rubber slugs in case that bear or any other bear returned and caused a problem.”

The family went inside with their dogs to give the bear some space, as recommended by the conservation agent. “We checked a bit later, and it had left,” she said.

The experience was one she and the rest of her family won’t soon forget. 

Missouri’s bear population continues to grow. In 2023, MDC estimated there were about 900 bears in the state, and the population is growing at about 9 percent a year. Kiger says as Missouri’s bear population continues to expand, it isn’t surprising that there are more human and bear interactions.

“In fact, I had a call about a week and a half ago from a guy who doesn’t live here but has a cabin out in the Isabella area. He has a security camera out there at the cabin and saw a large black bear come up to the front door. He said he wondered if it’d broken into the cabin because he didn’t have any footage of it leaving. He sent me some photos, so I went out there to check it out,” he said. “I didn’t see any signs of forced entry, and everything seemed to be in place. He later said he hadn’t gotten any footage of me out there either, so he thinks his camera may have malfunctioned when the bear was leaving.”

Kiger said the biggest suggestion to area residents is to avoid leaving attractants outside. 

“I gave [the Goodmans] some suggestions as to how to avoid attracting bears - things like not leaving pet food outside. I always tell people that if they want to feed their pets outside, it’s best to put the bowl out, allow the animal 20 minutes or so to eat and then put the bowl back inside,” he said. “Bears are very opportunistic omnivores. They’re fat, slow and lazy, and if there is an easy food source, they will go for it.”

If you encounter a bear, what should you do?

“Well, that really depends on the circumstances,” Jerry said. “If you’re in your yard, and it’s just passing through, go back inside. If it’s causing a problem with a food source or something like that, make a lot of noise. Clang pans together - that kind of thing to try and scare it off,” he said. “If it’s an emergency and you have pepper spray of any kind and it gets close enough, you just do whatever it takes. If you’re on a trail and encounter one, it’s best to stop or slowly back up. Don’t turn around and run away. Give it a chance to leave on its own. If it comes toward you, get as big as you can and make a lot of noise. Yell at it. Chances are it’ll wander off on its own.”

Kiger said that at this point, he doesn’t see a lot of reports locally of bears being a big problem.

“They have plenty of natural food sources, so they’re not going to come after you as a food source. The real dangers are when a person gets between a sow and a cub or if there’s an injured bear. That’s when they’re going to be aggressive and more defensive.”

Kiger said the old saying “a fed bear is a dead bear” rings true. “If there is a food source, a bear will keep coming back and become more accustomed to that location. Then it’s going to be less threatened by people, and the longer that goes on, the more of a problem that will be and a problem to get it to leave the area. We don’t like the idea of removing a nuisance area in one location and relocating it to another location to be a nuisance bear there. So, if the bear is a continued problem, the only real solution is to put the bear down, and we really don’t want to do that.” 

Due to the rising population, MDC no longer asks that residents report any bear sighting they have, as it has in the past. However, Kiger says that if residents are having any issues with a bear, they should call to let officials know. 

Locally, residents can call Agent Jerry Kiger on his cell at 417-989-1690 or Tom Leeker on his cell at 417-989-1693. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423