VIENNA — On July 13 Steve Deaton was checking on a part of his property on the west side of the Gasconade River off of Highway 42, about two miles east of Vienna. There’s an in-use …
VIENNA — On July 13 Steve Deaton was checking on a part of his property on the west side of the Gasconade River off of Highway 42, about two miles east of Vienna. There’s an in-use chicken coop there with an automatic feeder and automatic door opener. There was a problem that day as he saw chicken feathers scattered around on the ground and several chickens were gone. He knew there was a predator. He thought it probably was a coyote but he wasn’t sure.
Deaton walked around the house and as he rounded the corner he saw the bear. It saw him, too and was looking fixedly at him with its eyes wide open in the same way Deaton was staring back at the bear. Slowly, so he wouldn’t scare it off, he took out his phone and began to record the bear. Deaton laughs when he shows the video and notes that in it he can be heard breathing pretty hard. He said he felt somewhat afraid of the bear.
He was concerned to be so close to the bear, of course, but Deaton said mostly he was excited and happy to have the experience of coming face-to-face with this animal. He saw the bear every day for three consecutive days. It saw him as well and watched him as it moved away from him, wary about Deaton who mostly was interested in looking at it and getting some decent photos of it. He didn’t get any closer to it than about 25 feet.
Deaton said Larry Haller at the Vienna MFA told him, “The bear is probably seeing you more than you see it.” He believes this to be true.
“I could have got rid of the bear, but I wanted to take pictures of it,” he said. “I was pretty excited about it.” He could have made loud noises and raised his arms high to scare off the bear; but he didn’t want to.
There were several sightings of this bear in the area. He knows it is the same bear because of the scar on its left shoulder. His concern was that someone would shoot it if it was bothering their chickens, fowl or property. The bear was an opportunist for food and travelled a wide circle of about 20 miles as it was seen or filmed by game cameras getting into dumpsters, turning over feeders, trying to get to chickens/fowl in coops and it pulled a chicken pellet feed bag out of the trash. The bear’s ability to smell is better than a bloodhound, Deaton said. He noticed there were no deer caught on his game camera when the bear was around.
He thinks it probably has left the country and it was reported to have crossed the Gasconade River, either by swimming or possibly by crossing on the Highway 42 bridge. Deaton contacted the conservation department and they were able to come close enough to the bear to taser it so that it will stay away from people and chickens, which is best for the bear. Conservation said it is a male, a yearling, weighing about 160 pounds.
According to the Missouri Conservation Department (MDC), the black bear is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals in Missouri with some reaching up to 500 pounds. It is also a long-distance roamer constantly in search of food. While black bears are usually very secretive and avoid encounters with people, a growing number of bears in the state is resulting in more encounters with and more interest in the big bruins.
Bear numbers in Missouri have increased significantly over the last 50 years and Missouri is now home to between 540 to 840 black bears. MDC also reports that bear numbers are increasing by nearly nine percent each year and bear range in the state is also growing.
“Missouri’s black bears are found south of the Missouri River, primarily south of Interstate 44,” said MDC State Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee. “Missouri’s bear population is also part of a larger population of several thousand bears distributed throughout the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas.”
Another bear was seen in this county by several people on the other side of the river. Maries County Collector Jayne Williams and her husband, Denny, saw a bear early last Saturday morning as it crossed in front of their vehicle on Highway Z, but she’s not sure if it was the one Deaton encountered or another bear.
Carl Tiemann reported capturing images of a bear on his game camera. Tiemann owns the former John Kopanski place, a heavily wooded area on MCR 340, which is old Highway 63 near the entrance to Paradise Valley. The bear Tiemann saw had a big scar on its left flank. Tiemann had put out dry molasses and the bear was drawn to it because it has a strong smell when it gets wet. Tiemann said he was told to attract bear to put out donuts, sweets, honey and molasses to draw the bear, which must have had a sweet tooth because it came. Tiemann said other people saw the bear, too. Joe Bufalo had reports of people seeing the bear in that area.
Tiemann lives in Hazelwood, MO and bought the place in Maries County in 2002 because he loves to fish and hunt. He’s a retired state worker and likes to get out of the city and come to Maries County. He said bears are getting to be more common and he remembers MDC collared a bear and tracked it as it crossed through the county.
Tiemann said for the bears, it’s breeding season and he thinks, “Its neat to have a bear population here.”
Deaton suggested if people don’t want bears coming around their place, don’t leave stuff out they want to eat. He agrees with Tiemann about bear living in Maries County being a good thing. “They are here,” and are among all of the animals that live near the Gasconade River and contribute to what makes this area a very nice, special and at times an untamed place to live. The survival of these black bears among humans “is out of my hands,” Deaton said. He enjoyed his encounters with the black bear and said he’d like for his kids and his grandkids to see bears as well.
“I am tickled to death I saw it.”
If you have recently seen a bear in Maries County and would like to share your story with our readers, we want to talk to you. Please call Laura at 573-422-6323. We look forward to hearing your bear story.