There's a fine line between showing nature-lovers where Missouri's black bears travel, and tipping off poachers on where to find them.

The Missouri Department of Conservation's black bear research page has helped Missourians keep up with their friendly neighborhood bears, but the MDC has begun to worry that the detailed tracking data (though on a one-month delay) might be too much information. So the department is updating the page with a new map and other enhanced features.

The new webpage will offer black bear research project summaries, project updates, new research photos, videos, interactive story maps and much more.

One of many new web features on the black bear research website will be an interactive story map. Story maps combine maps and geography with narrative text, images, and multimedia content to better share the story about black bears in Missouri. The black bear story map will launch this spring on the website.

“The story map will also show website users interesting black bear movements, such as, how far a bear can disperse, and maps of our collared bears,” said Laura Conlee, MDC furbearer biologist.

The new enhanced story map will replace the old tracking map previously on the website. While the new technology still provides interactive research maps of bear movements in Missouri, it limits individual collared bear locations to protect against illegal poaching.

“MDC conservation agents expressed growing concern over the potential for making it easier for someone interested in illegal wildlife trafficking to find a bear by looking on a website,” Conlee said. “Also, as Missouri’s black bear population grows and approaches the possibility of a hunting season, it was an ideal time to make changes to the maps while at the same time improving the interactive experience for people to learn more about black bears.”

MDC’s Conservation Commission has established a benchmark of 500 black bears before MDC initiates a hunting season. Missouri currently has an estimated black bear population of 350 bears. Conlee stated she is still collecting data to determine when the benchmark might be reached and will be posting ongoing research updates to the new bear research webpage.

MDC will also be updating the bear reports webpage with a map of bear reports throughout the state. To learn more about black bears in Missouri, including research information, ongoing project updates, bear research photos and videos, and future story maps, go to http://bit.ly/2CUgZiE. To view the new map of bear reports in Missouri or to report a bear sighting, visit http://bit.ly/2CGFixc. For information about being bear aware while hiking or camping, visit http://bit.ly/2fwaWUA.

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