JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – If you’ve ever wanted to get a bear’s-eye view of the world, now’s your chance.
As part of some something called the Black Bear Project, the Missouri Department of Conservation strapped a video camera onto the collars of dozens of bears that had been tranquilized and then later set loose.
“The overall project is designed to estimate the number of bears we have in this state,” explains Jeff Beringer, a conservation department wildlife biologist who heads up the Black Bear Project. “We didn’t used to have bears in the state. We’re learning a lot of things like ‘Where do they den, when do they den, what kind of habitat do they use, how do they move?’.”
Beringer says the project has been able to provide a lot of new insight into the activities of a bear during the course of a day.
“We didn’t catch them playing cards or anything like that, but we saw them doing some really neat things that we didn’t expect,” Beringer says.
The highlight of the three-minute video available on the conservation department’s website, YouTube, and now www.kmox.com is when one of the cameras abruptly drops off the collar of a mother bear leading a pair of cubs through the woods.
The film keeps rolling as the mama bear slowly shuffles off…but then turns around and looks back at the camera.
You can almost see the wheels turning in the bear’s mind as she contemplates the fallen piece of human technology.
“She obviously made a decision,” Beringer says. “You could see it…’Should I go back or not?’, and suddenly she decided ‘That’s it, I’m going back!’.”
The picture starts shaking violently as the curious bear begins pawing it around on the ground, trying to figure it all out.
Beringer believes the black bear population in Missouri will keep growing to the point where there will soon be a hunting season.
“I think that’s an appropriate way to manage bears. They live a long time and can live to be fifteen to twenty years old, and if we hunt them at a very regulated level we can keep that population from getting to the point where it is going to cause a lot of problems with humans,” says Beringer.
He adds the bear population mainly subsists on berries, leaves and grass, insects and the occasional dead animal, taking in about 3,000 calories a day, tops.
But soon the bears will be packing on up to 20,000 calories a day as they prepare to hunker down for the winter.