American black bears (Ursus americanus) were nearly extirpated from Missouri (USA) by the early 1900s and began re-colonizing apparent suitable habitat in southern Missouri following reintroduction efforts in Arkansas (USA) during the 1960s. We used anecdotal occurrence data from 1989 to 2010 and forest cover to describe broad patterns of black bear re-colonization, human–bear incidents, and bear mortality reports in Missouri. Overall, 1,114 black bear occurrences (including 118 with dependent young) were reported, with 95% occurring within the Ozark Highlands ecological region. We created evidentiary standards to increase reliability of reports, resulting in exclusion of 21% of all occurrences and 13% of dependent young. Human–bear incidents comprised 5% of total occurrences, with 86% involving bears eating anthropogenic foods. We found support for a northward trend in latitudinal extent of total occurrences over time, but not for reported incidents. We found a positive correlation between the distribution of bear occurrences and incidents. Twenty bear mortalities were reported, with 60% caused by vehicle collisions. Black bear occurrences have been reported throughout most of Missouri's forested areas, although most reports of reproduction occur in the southern and eastern Ozark Highlands. Though occurrence data are often suspect, the distribution of reliable reports supports our understanding of black bear ecology in Missouri and reveals basic, but important, large-scale patterns important for establishing management and research plans.