Taney County family shares close encounter with black bear

It was a close encounter with a bear in Taney County.

Chris McPeak walked outside his home near Walnut Shade to see a black bear in his yard. He caught the bear on camera as it searched for food in the dumpster.

The McPeak Family had noticed signs of a bear, like when the chicken coop was damaged and feed was spilled, but hadn't met the culprit until early Monday morning.

"Usually there's a fence between you and the bear when you're at the zoo," McPeak said.

McPeak says even though he was pretty close, the bear wasn't too interested in him.

"He was not more than 100-feet away, I suppose," McPeak said. "He kept looking at me. I didn't know what he was going to do, but he didn't show any aggression."

Conservation experts say that behavior is typical for a black bear.

"It's not looking for humans. It's looking for bird feed, it's looking for trash and cans and lids that are not secure. It's looking for food," Missouri Department of Conservation's Francis Skalicky said.

He says as southern Missouri's bear population grows, people should always be bear aware.

"If you see a bear around your home, try to get it to move on. It's a wild animal, it doesn't need to be around your home. The big thing is, treat it with respect. Keep your distance from it and it'll probably keep its distance from you," Skalicky said.

That's why the McPeaks and their neighbors are taking precautions.

"We are strapping the lids down [on the dumpster] now, so they can't get it," McPeak said.

Several years ago, experts estimated that there were about 350 bears in Missouri. However, that number is likely higher now. The Missouri Department of Conservation is in the process of figuring out how quickly and how much the population has grown.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.