JEFFERSON CITY — A pair of bears remains at the center of Missouri's state flag, even though hunting and human encroachment nearly wiped out the state's bear population by the 1940s.
Now, the bears are back in good numbers. The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates Missouri has about 225 black bears.
Conservation officials arrived at that preliminary figure based on a research project that began in 2010. The department has trapped and tagged 61 adult bears with radio collars and has collected fur samples from 141 bears that crossed wire "hair snares" to get to bait.
The research shows that most female bears make their homes in 10 south-central Missouri counties. DNA evidence suggests some of the bears might be a remnant of Missouri's original black bear population. Others might have migrated from Arkansas.