12:59 PM
Bear fatally injured (photo courtesy of Neosho Daily News)

The Missouri Highway Patrol and conservation agents are warning motorists to be on the lookout for black bears after a young male bear was hit yesterday on Highway 59 near Neosho.

A motorist called the Missouri Department of Conservation in Springfield after a witnessing a motorist in front of them hit the bear. Deputies with the Newton County Sheriff's Office and Highway Patrol troopers responded to the call.

The young bear, who weighed about 150 pounds, had to be euthanized after injuries to his side and back legs left him unable to stand. This is the second black bear killed in as many months. Another young male bear was killed after being hit by a car on I-44 near Sarcoxie in June.

"Our bear population has been slowly increasing over the years. Keep in mind that a bear can surprise you just as quickly as a deer. They move pretty quick, so motorists need to be on the lookout for them around wooded areas," said Scott Burger, Missouri Department of Conservation protection district supervisor.

It is illegal to hunt black bear in Missouri, but there is no penalty if you hit one of the animals.

Burger says agents and landowners are seeing more and more of the animals that were once native to the area. "They're making a comeback. We didn't re-introduce the bears to the area, they're migrating north from Arkansas. We are going to get together with landowners and set some trap sites so we can tag some of the animals and fit them with radio collars so we have an idea of the number of bear in the area."