Predators in the Big Woods
A  WebQuest for Grades 3-5, WebQuest Agricultural Series by Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri State University


In Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ma and Laura come across a black bear that has awakened from its winter hibernation. While they escaped from the bear without getting hurt, finding a bear in the middle of winter was quite a shock! The bear was supposed to be sleeping, but it was out of its den looking for food around the Ingalls’ homestead.

During winter in areas where it gets cold, bears hibernate. When they wake up in the spring, bears are very hungry because they have not eaten for months! They often want to eat some of the same food as humans. Therefore, bears and humans must compete for the same food.

The bear in Little House in the Big Woods frightened both Ma and Laura more than one hundred years ago. Today some farmers deal with bears and other animals that bother their livestock. Sometimes these animals kill or injure farm animals. When that happens, farmers refer to the animals as predators. Some examples of predators might include coyotes, wolves, bears, or maybe even dogs. Farmers need to have a way to keep the predators away from their livestock.

Your task is to find out why the bear came to Laura’s house in search of food. You will be able to answer this question by investigating what bears like to eat and how farmers deal with predators on their land.

Project #1: Bear and Human Food Competition Brochure

1.      You will visit the following sites and read about a bear’s eating habits. As you are reading, write down different kinds of food bears like to eat. Make a note (*) next to the foods listed that humans also eat.

North American Bear Center

International Association for Bear Research and Management
Directions: click on each picture of bear breed to see their information.

2.      After you have written your list, visit the American Bear Association’s website and take their Food for Bears quiz.

3.      Create a brochure presenting the information you have learned about bear food. The brochure should contain the following information:

·         at least three types of food that both bear and humans eat

·         illustrations of the food

·         an explanation of why that food is good for both bears and humans to eat

Project #2: Farm Animal Predator Comparison/Contrast Chart

1.      View the following website and read about how modern farmers deal with farm animal predators and take notes on what you learn.

Preventing Predation of Your Sheep Flock

2.      Review the chapters dealing with bears in Little House in the Big Woods.

3.      Construct a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Pa’s methods of dealing with predators and a modern day farmer’s methods of dealing with predators. Print this Venn diagram or draw your own.

4.      Create a Cause-Effect organizer in response to the following situation: 

When Laura and Ma discovered a bear outside their barn, they were scared for their own safety and for their milk cow, Sukey. Later in the book, Pa shoots a bear that has stolen and killed a pig. Imagine if a bear had killed Sukey and/or eaten the pig. What changes would have occurred for the Ingalls family without these two animals? Think about all the food and other products both animals provide for the family. Why was it important for Pa to control these farm animal predators? What other options did they have?

Print this Cause-Effect organizer or draw your own.

Although the Ingalls family dealt with farm animal predators more than one hundred years ago, they still faced many of the same challenges of modern day farmers. These challenges include competing for the same food as predators, such as bears, and protecting the farm’s livestock. Farm livestock need to be protected so that the family who depends on it can continue to survive. Humans must continue to develop ways of protecting their family’s food and livestock from a variety of predators, ensuring their food and other products are kept safe. As technology increases, farmers must continue to create new and effective ways of controlling these predators.

Bear and Human Food Competition Brochure Rubric

Farm Predator Venn Diagram Rubric




This WebQuest was created by teachers participating in Missouri's Agriculture in the Classroom program at Missouri State University through a USDA grant.  The template on this site was adapted from a template from The WebQuest Page and the original was designed by Dr. Lyndon Irwin.  Assistance for this project was provided by Mrs. Barbara Irwin, M.S. and Mrs. Diane Olson, M.S.

Teachers are encouraged to adapt this lesson for classroom use only.  No part of this publication may be transmitted, stored, recorded or published in any form without written permission from Missouri Farm Bureau.


This page was developed by Samantha McMaster Warren, reviewed by Lyndon and the late Barbara Irwin and is maintained by Missouri Farm Bureau.
Please address questions to Diane Olson at Missouri Farm Bureau.