Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bears in the Ozarks

When white men first started settling the Ozarks in the 1810s and 1820s, black bears were common in the region. They were killed at such a rate during the first 20 or 30 years of white settlement, however, that they were virtually gone by the time of the Civil War, or at least they were thought to be nearly gone. During the 1960s, Arkansas began reintroducing black bears to that state, and some of them have now roamed northward into the Missouri Ozarks. Also, there is some evidence that black bears never completely left southern Missouri. However, they are still nowhere near as prevalent as they were during the first half of the 19th century. In fact, they are probably still not as prevalent as they were during the years shortly after the Civil War.
For instance, in June of 1870, two black bears were killed in the Springfield vicinity within a week. The first one, as reported by the Springfield Missouri Weekly Patriot, was killed by a farmer living about nine miles east of town when the bear "strayed from his native forests too close to the habituations of the white man" and scattered some rails the farmer had used to enclose a spring. The farmer put his hounds on the trail of the bruin, they treed it, and he filled it full of lead. The next week, the same newspaper reported that another black bear had been killed by a man living about seven miles south of Springfield. The newspaperman remarked that he had thought, after chronicling the first bear's demise the previous week, he would probably never have occasion to report a similar story again. It's clear from his statement that the sighting and killing of two bears in such a short span of time and in the same general vicinity of the Ozarks was a rare instance in 1870, but the fact that two bears were, in fact, killed within a week not more than fifteen miles apart is also an indication that they were probably more common in 1870 than they are now.   

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