Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Little Dummy

Little Dummy caught again-  REK
On a Thursday morning at Bull Creek, I got a call from Jason Larson of MDC who I knew from timber surveys and hog trapping.  He was 20 minutes away where he had a bear in a barrel trap without enough light to see its ear tag.  I headed over with some flashlights and we spent some time trying to see the tag on the back of the ear.  We were looking for blue=male or yellow=female.  Unfortunately the tag was too faded to tell the difference.
Bear #58-57 at home in his trap - REK
Catching a bear requires a lot of patience and stamina.  After studying topographic maps, looking for intersecting ridge lines in heavily forested areas, MDC biologists contacted the landowners for permission to set up trapping sites.  This site was in national forest down a 1.5 mile logging trail crossing a small stream and over downed logs.  They have to come out regularly to bait the area and check the game camera, determining when to activate the trap.
Large male sizing up the trap - MDC
Little bear, free lunch
This trap had other visitors.  In addition to the ever present raccoons, a young bear crawled in to look around and munch some out of date pastries.  After that a big male dropped by, almost filling the tube with his bulk.  Finally the trap was activated and here came our bear.

Little Dummy.  Note white spot, his ear tag - MDC
Following our checking it out that morning, the bear team came out at 5PM after working up 3 other bears they had trapped.  They determined that it was a male, ear tag #58-57.  This season MDC is only putting radio collars on females and he had been measured recently so they released him.  A few days later I went to the MDC website to see where the radio collar had tracked him over the past years and discovered that we had met before!
Bear #58-57 four days before his initial capture and collaring - MDC
This bear is well known to the team, lovingly referred to as "Little Dummy" because of the frequency he is caught.  As you can see in the picture above, he was resting quietly, having gorged on all the donuts in the bait bag.  He had engorged ticks clinging to his face, an occupational hazard when you live full time in the woods.  At this moment, life was pretty good.
Eleven months of travel
Little Dummy was first caught in Christian County on June 11, 2011, munching on donuts while held by a foot snare.  He was sedated with a tranquilizer dart, and 14 different measurements were taken including extracting a first premolar for determining his age.  He was then moved to a safe location where they could protect him until the sedative wore off.  Over the next year his location was mapped as you can see on this MDC website.
September 1, 2011- note corn in background - REK
On September 1, 2011, three months later, we had a bear on a game camera, watching a pile of corn we'd spread for feral hogs.  We then put out a hog trap and on September 4, we had a picture of a collared bear in it.  The trap had no way of opening the door without reaching in as it wasn't built to remove a hog alive.  Fortunately the bear didn't bump the corn-filled bait cup at the far end and was able to walk out. Several days later we got our hog.
September 4, 2011- "No donuts here." - REK
The following year I went to the MDC bear map web site and discovered that bear #1117 had prowled around Christian County for months, even going past Ava.   On September 4, 2011 at 7PM it was located in our field, exactly where the trap was!

After our adventure watching bear #58-57 leaping out of his trap, we came back home to see his history.  To our surprise, we discovered that the #58-57 refers to the ear tag and he wore collar #1117.  That was our bear in the hog trap three years earlier!

Now back to the "Little Dummy" name.  He was recaptured with a foot snare on  May 25, 2012, noted to be in excellent condition, and the radio collar removed shortly before it was programed to fall off.  OK, any bear can be excused for falling for the old doughnut-foot trap trick a second time.  But when you catch him six times, you know you have a serious pastry addiction problem on your hands.

Having been caught repeatedly, they started to refer to him as Little Dummy.  Now I might argue that he should be called Little Smarty.  After all, he has trained a group of bright, educated wildlife biologists to drive all over in the middle of nowhere to bring in big bags of pastries.  Then "Smarty" wolfs (or is it bears?) them down and takes a nap until they come along to release him.  It just depends on your point of view.  When I took the picture at the top of the page, I swear I saw him wink at me.

  • Watch this 3 minute video to see Jeff Beringer demonstrate the steps of Phase 1 of the study.
  • For information on the different phases of the study including radio collaring an hair snare go to this site.
  • This Bear page lets you pull up information on the travels of individual bears.  Enter 1117 to follow Little Dummy by scrolling to the map and click on animation.  Be patient, it takes some time to load, but not as long as it takes to trap a bear. 
  • Learn about the Missouri Black Bear Foundation at or like us on Facebook.


  1. Kind of like Otis on Andy Griffith.

  2. Ever since I found out that MDC uses doughnuts to lure bears, I've wondered why. Isn't the best case scenario is a sustainable bear population that has no reason to approach human encampments and residences?
    Maybe "Little Dummy" isn't so dumb, as he leaves unharmed with a full stomach every time he encounters a trap!
    Great post, BTW!