Facebook is abuzz with bears.
After previous sightings at Lake of the Ozarks, around St. Louis and other places in Missouri, they're finally making their way to the Capital City.
A juvenile bear recently was spotted on Jefferson City's east side, and one was reportedly seen in New Bloomfield. One post on Facebook had 264 comments as of this writing.
Many of the posts showed a curiosity for the animals, which we don't often see around here.
Despite the cuddly reputation they have, we need to remember bears are powerful wild animals that should command our respect and caution, as they have the ability to injure or kill humans.
The biggest thing to remember is to keep your distance from bears and don't attempt to feed them. Feeding bears makes them lose their natural fear of humans, increasing the likelihood of interaction with humans and potential attacks on humans. It also increases the chances the animal will have to be destroyed. As the saying goes, "A fed bear is a dead bear."
The Missouri Department of Conservation has urged the public to be "bear aware," and offers these other tips:
- Stay alert and avoid confrontation.
- Make noise so you don't surprise a bear — clap, sing or talk loudly. Travel in a group if possible.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and watch for bear signs such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.
- Keep dogs leashed.
- Odors attract bears, so keep a clean campsite.
- Store all food and toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees.
- Store garbage securely in a vehicle or strung high between two trees. Never burn or bury garbage or food waste.
If you encounter a bear up close:
- Leave it alone and do not approach it. Make sure it has an escape route.
- Back away slowly with your arms raised. Do not run.
- Speak in a calm, loud voice.
- Do not turn your back to the bear.
Bears are beautiful creatures, but they're best left alone and viewed from a distance. To learn more about bears in Missouri or to report a sighting of one, visit mdc.mo.gov/wildlife/report-wildlife-sightings/bear-reports.