Many people think of wildlife as “home bodies” — critters that spend most of their lives within a few miles of where they were born.
But that’s not always the case.
Waterfowl and other bird species make long migrations each spring and fall, a widely known phenomenon.
But have you heard about the black bear that decided to wander through the Ozarks? The bear was originally tagged with a tracking device in Christian County, where it was wintering. It traveled to Warren County the following year, where it spent the winter.
Then this spring, a resident in Bollinger County spotted a bear from his back porch — close enough that the man could take a photo of the tag in its ear. The Department of Conservation tracked the tag number and confirmed that it was a 3-year-old black bear that had traveled almost 400 miles across southern Missouri.
“This bear probably left Christian County because his mother ran him off and because young males have an instinct to move and find unrelated females,” said Jeff Beringer, who leads the Black Bear Project for the Department of Conservation. “Not all bears move this far, but long dispersals are common for male bears.”
Then there were two paddlefish that were tagged in the Mississippi River and traveled more than 500 miles to the northern part of Louisiana before they were caught. Researchers from Southeast Missouri State University and the Department of Conservation, who collaborated in a five-year study of paddlefish dynamics, weren’t surprised to see that the paddlefish they tagged traveled long distances. But even they were surprised to see just how far some of the fish swam during their spawning run.
“Some of these fish movements are just extraordinary,” said Nick Kramer, a graduate student in charge of the study. “For instance, one paddlefish swam up the Ohio River, swam up to Kentucky Dam and actually managed to (maneuver through) the lock chamber to enter Kentucky Lake before being caught nearly 10 miles above the dam.”