JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — A bear died after a semi-truck hit it on Interstate 55 near Herculaneum, Missouri, Monday afternoon. Officials believe it’s the same bear that traveled to different cities in Jefferson County in recent days.

Wildlife experts said the bear population is still growing faster than ever.

“It’s surprising that we’re seeing these many bear encounters in more urbanized areas, and yet it’s not,” says Dan Zarlenga with The Missouri Wildlife Conservation.

Zarlenga said the bear population is growing about 8% each year and bears are migrating closer to the St. Louis region. Just last year, conservationists had to remove a bear out of a tree near Brentwood.

“There seems to be a corridor that they favor that’s taking them more towards the St. Louis area and surrounding counties,” Zarlenga told FOX 2. “So we expect going forward, the bear sightings and the reports will be more and more commonplace.”

The latest sighting that made social media buzz was a black bear making several appearances in videos and photos across Jefferson County over the weekend. Charlee Dacus and her family were heading to dinner when they got a surprising closeup.

“We were going down the road on our way to Cracker Barrel to eat for my grandma’s birthday when this bear just started walking across the road. So we stopped and start taking photos of it and videos,” Dacus said. “At first I was like, ‘Wait this is crazy. I’ve never seen a bear before.’”

Zarlenga said he suspects it is the same bear that has been wandering around Jefferson County. Zarlenga addressed questions as to why the Missouri wildlife conservation did not act sooner before the bear was killed.

“So the answer is because just non-practicality of mobilizing every time there’s a spotting, as well as the stress it would induce on the bear to actually tranquilize and relocate it,” he said. “Typically bears just move on. So that’s kind of why we don’t go out to every bear that’s reported. We only act if the bear is in immediate danger or in danger of others.”

For Dacus and her family, they know bears can easily be found in your backyard.

“Animals are definitely around walking around and stuff, so people should be careful when animals are around so they’re not getting hurt like what happened today,” Dacus said.

Zarlenga said if you see a bear, leave it alone or act big and try to make a lot of noise to scare it off. Also, don’t leave food around overnight because that of course attracts the bear well.

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