Authorities said there have been no additional black bear sightings in the St. Clair area or any place else in Franklin County since one caused a local stir toward the end of May.
However, the animal recently may have been quite active in Jefferson County, although officials cannot be sure it’s the same bear that has been sighted in both counties.
Tom Meister, wildlife damage biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, told The Missourian on Wednesday that as far as he knows, the bear has not shown itself locally and may even have traveled far away from the area.
“I’ve been in touch with local agents and other people, and no one has seen him or even heard that he is around,” he said. “Remember, bears usually run away from people, so it’s possible he could be around and just deeper in the woods. But, my guess is that he has left.”
In fact, Meister said it’s possible that the bear that was seen in Hillsboro and De Soto last week could be the same bear as the one seen around here.
“It’s possible,” he said. “We don’t know for sure. but they have been described as being about the same size and age.
“Bears can cover a lot of territory quickly.”
De Soto is about 33 miles southeast of St. Clair in Jefferson County. Hillsboro is about nine miles north of De Soto on Highway 21.
Published reports stated that a black bear was seen by several individuals in De Soto on Tuesday, June 24.
A woman took a picture of the animal roaming through her backyard, and the bear was seen near the De Soto Wal-Mart on Highway 21.
However, just like in the St. Clair area, the bear has eluded authorities. It has not been seen there since late last week.
Meister told The Missourian in early June that a young black bear was seen several times in and around St. Clair. In fact, one man got an extremely close look at it when it ran into his vehicle on Highway 30 near Meramec Lakes Golf Course.
More than a half-dozen local sightings of the bear were reported to the MDC in May, including the man who said he was traveling on Highway 30 in his vehicle near the golf course east of St. Clair. He saw the bear in a yard along the highway, and as he came closer, the bear ran onto the highway and into his vehicle.
The man said he stopped to see if the animal was OK, but by then it had ambled into the woods.
“We have had several bear sightings in the St. Clair area recently,” Meister said in early June. “We’ve had more reports of sightings in the last few weeks than we’ve had in the past five or six years.”
A couple of hours after the incident near Meramec Lakes, the bear was spotted on Highway K just south of Highway 30, or more than three miles away.
“That was at about 8:30 p.m. that same day (May 22),” Meister said of the Highway K sighting. “The accident had taken place some time during the evening. He (bear) traveled pretty far in that amount of time between the sightings.
“He hasn’t been seen (locally) since,” Meister said.
Meister said he and Franklin County conservation officer Ben Pursley talked to individuals who said they saw the bear locally, and the consistency of their stories were proof enough to them that the bear had been around.
Other sightings were reported as far away as Highway AH in the Moselle area as well as other places around St. Clair.
“We’re pretty sure he has been around, and we’re pretty sure it’s all been the same bear,” Meister said of the St. Clair-area sightings. “And, it’s almost for sure an adult male.”
The biologist said the animal undoubtedly is looking for food, a mate or both.
“It’s pretty rare to see them in this area,” he said. “They’re reported occasionally, but not like this. There hasn’t been anything consistent like this for quite some time.”
Meister said it’s possible the bear has roamed from St. Clair to De Soto looking for that mate, food or both.
“He could be a young male looking for some new territory,” he said on Wednesday. “If he doesn’t find what he wants, he keeps going.”
Meister said if anyone happens to see a bear, he or she should not approach it and never feed it. The sighting should be reported to the MDC as soon as possible.
“If you see a bear, make a lot of noise,” he said. “Let him know you’re around. Don’t spook him. And stay away from him.”
The biologist said the animals can be extremely dangerous, especially if surprised.
The bear was spotted in several areas near Highway 21 in late June and is thought to be a young 2-year-old male, the same description of the St. Clair bear.
The animal was spotted on June 24 in the De Soto Wal-Mart parking lot. Officers spent about 45 minutes searching the wooded area down the street from the store at about 5 p.m.
It was reported that a De Soto police officer and a Missouri Department of Conservation agent both saw the bear earlier that day.
The search resumed the next day, but the bear was not located.
He has not been seen since.
The goal is not to kill the bear, but move it to safety away from population areas.