Christian County couple catches juvenile black bear snoozing on a tree limb in backyard

·4 min read

Mary Arneson is used to seeing American black bears on the rural 14 acres she lives on with her husband and 100-year-old mother.

An especially large bear was spotted ambling between the cars and another wandered onto the back porch to snag a bird feeder before bolting off in recent years.

The latest encounter was with a much younger bear who happened to find just the perfect napping spot — on a tree limb adjacent to the porch.

Arneson's husband, Tryg, was doing yard work while several of their Pomeranian dogs milled about when he heard a noise above him Aug. 6.

A young bear was spotted in a tree near a Christian County home Aug. 6, 2022.
A young bear was spotted in a tree near a Christian County home Aug. 6, 2022.

"He looked up and there was this young bear, just kind of standing up on the limb," Arneson said as the bear watched him and the dogs. "Nobody was barking or fussing."

Related: 'We have to think about Missouri as bear country,' biologist says

The quiet didn't last long. The dogs began barking as her husband went to find her, Arneson said in a phone interview with the News-Leader later on.

"By that time, that silly bear had flopped down on this huge limb and straddled it and he was sound asleep," Arneson said. "He was so close. The limb is not real high up in this tree. He just took a nap."

Their dogs eventually grew tired of barking at the unmoving bear and left him be.

"He didn't even open his eyes," Arneson said.

Arneson had to leave and when she returned home, the bear was gone. Two nights later, they saw it trundling through their yard to drink from a water trough.

From its size, Arneson guessed the bear was about two to three years old.

More: What to do if you encounter a black bear? For starters, never play dead, biologist says

You're gonna need more cowbell

The first bear the Arneson’s spotted on their property about three years ago in Christian County.
The first bear the Arneson’s spotted on their property about three years ago in Christian County.

Having known each other since they were 16 years old, the Arneson's are now both 76. They moved to the property about a decade ago from Colorado, and although they have a Forsyth address, they reside in Christian County along Highway H with woods that neighbor the Mark Twain National Forrest.

"We didn't know so much about bears," Arneson said. "We knew, of course, that we were going to be in the woods."

The first bear was seen three years ago and was "pretty large," Arneson said. The bear wandered though the Arneson's carport in front of the house before going down the path in front of the cottage her mother, Bessie Kurth, resides in.

The first bear the Arneson’s spotted on their property about three years ago in Christian County.
The first bear the Arneson’s spotted on their property about three years ago in Christian County.

"It went around the edge of the cottage and then went down into the woods," Arneson said.

More: Bears are becoming more common in Missouri. Here are a few expert tips to remember.

The second bear got much closer. Arneson said she and her husband were reading in their living room while the dogs slept about two years ago.

"I looked up and went, 'Oh!'" Arneson recalled. "There was a huge black bear there on our porch right outside our French doors."

The second bear that ran from the porch on the Arneson’s property.
The second bear that ran from the porch on the Arneson’s property.

As soon as she made the noise, all the dogs woke and immediately charged out the doggie door after the bear.

"The bear grabbed a (seed) feeder and it went over the gate and down the steps," Arneson said as it raced through her backyard. "Fortunately, it dropped our bird feeder and took off into the woods."

The second bear that ran from the porch on the Arneson’s property.
The second bear that ran from the porch on the Arneson’s property.

When the bear returned a day or two later, Arneson took a cowbell and began ringing it in an effort to scare the adult away.

"He went tearing down into the woods and almost ran over a baby fawn," Arneson said.

Each bear sighting means another report made to Missouri Department of Conservation.

Country living means being bear aware

When living in bear country, it's important to not leave traps of any kind, Arneson said. What that means is locking trash away, putting up bird feeders at the end of day and not letting the animals become comfortable with your presence. Bagged food, even unopened, can be scented.

"We take all of our feeders in at night," Arneson said about feeding the dozens of hummingbirds that flit about their property.

The most recent bear spotted on the Arneson’s property in Christian County.
The most recent bear spotted on the Arneson’s property in Christian County.

Another thing to remember is to lock your doors. Something like a lever latch can be simple for a bear to open if otherwise unlocked, Arneson said.

"A bear can easily open that door if we didn't have it locked," Arneson said.

In the 10 years they've lived in that neck of the woods, the Arneson's have only had to retrieve scattered trash once, but they remain vigilant.

"It's important, I think, to not have a lot of things that they can destroy," she said.

Arneson urged folks who venture out to enjoy nature to be prepared to make loud noises if and when they encounter large animals.

The American black bear is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals in Missouri.
The American black bear is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals in Missouri.

"Listen to the woods and listen to your surroundings," Arneson said.

If Arneson sees that young bear again, she's already planning to grab her cowbell again to scare it off.

"As much as it's wonderful to be able to watch nature and see the animals and all that, I don't want them to be comfortable around us because that's too dangerous for them," Arneson said.

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at skarnes@springfi.gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri couple catches black bear snoozing on tree limb in backyard