NEOSHO — A state conservation official says the death of a black bear that was hit by a vehicle provides some proof that the American black bear population is growing in southwest Missouri.
The bear was euthanized Wednesday after it was hit by a car near Neosho and so badly injured that it couldn't use its hind legs, said Newton County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Stanley.
The Missouri Department of Conservation recommended that the bear be euthanized because its injuries indicated two broken legs or a severe spinal injury, said Scott Burger.
"The best thing in this case was to just go ahead and put it out of its misery," Burger said.
Another bear was euthanized in May when it was hit by a vehicle near Sarcoxie. Burger told The Neosho Daily News that both bears were young males weighing about 150 pounds.
Yearling males are often kicked out of their home territory by dominant males and wander to find new habitat. The bears in southwest Missouri are coming from Arkansas, which reintroduced them because of declining populations.
"The young males, they roam out of Arkansas, looking for new territories," Burger said. "We're just experiencing an expanding population."
Burger said it's unclear how many bears are in Missouri.
"We're monitoring them," Burger said. "We do have a management plan in place. We didn't stock them. We didn't bring them back. They've come back on their own."
This year, Missouri conservationists began a study that will trap live bears and equip them with radio collars.
"Right now we can't really say how many we think we have," Burger said. "It's a guess. It's a growing population from the number of reports we get each year and, obviously, road kill like this."