SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It’s that time of year when we will start seeing black bears coming out of hibernation.

The Missouri Conservation Department (MDC) says the black bear population in the state is growing. Agents have been studying den sights and the paths of momma bears and the number of surviving cubs. With the population expanding. That means the bears will likely be exploring more urban areas.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Conservation Department. He says the fact that the bears are having surviving cubs proves the population is growing.

“One of the things that we’ve done in a one year study is put radio collars on the some of the females that allows us to track the females to their winter den sights,” said Skalicky. “So when they have any cubs, we can see how many cubs they have. Then a year later we can track those females again and see what kind of reproductive success they’ve had in other words how many of the cubs survived.”

As the black population continues to spread we will begin to see more and more of these bears in urban communities.

“One thing we know about bears in Missouri is that range seems to be expanding,” Skalicky said. “The population we estimate to be somewhere between 540 and 840 statewide? Yes, most of it the bulk of it is in southern Missouri. There is a few of them that’s crossed the river but the bulk of it is southern Missouri.”

This happened last year in downtown Aurora.

A black bear climbed up a tree Olivia Naylor’s populated neighborhood and stayed there until it was ready to come down.

“A conservation agent came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am…there’s a black bear in your tree in your yard’ and I was like ‘are you kidding me?'” Naylor said.

So, as the bears and their cubs start coming out of hibernation they will be hungry and looking for food. What to do if you come upon a bear or the bear comes to your home or area? Do not give them food, put away any potential food sources and if they still won’t leave its recommended you make loud noises. It is bear aware time.