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State lays out proposal for bear hunting

The Rolla Daily News

The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved a proposed framework for a black bear hunting season. The commission approved the framework last Friday and is asking for final public input Oct. 16 through Nov. 14.

The earliest a black bear hunting season would occur is fall 2021, which would be limited to Missouri residents.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, over the last 50 years bear numbers in the Missouri Ozarks have increased significantly and currently Missouri is home to 540 to 840 black bears, primarily south of Interstate 44. Missouri bear numbers are increasing each year by 9%, bear range in the state is expanding and Missouri's bear population is expected to double in less than 10 years, according to MDC.

Missouri's bear population is also connected to a larger bear population in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

"With Missouri's growing black bear population, a limited and highly regulated black bear hunting season will be an essential part of population management in the future as Missouri's bear numbers continue to grow," said MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee. "The timing and length of the season, restrictive methods, and permit allocation coupled with a harvest quota will initially be limited to ensure a sustainable harvest of our growing bear population."

Conlee noted that Arkansas and Oklahoma have established bear hunting seasons.

The Department of Conservation has proposed three bear management zones in southern Missouri. The hunting season would begin each year on the third Monday in October and run for 10 days or until a zone’s quota is reached. Hunting hours would be a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour hour after sunset. Only Missouri residents would be allowed to hunt.

Hunters would be allowed to use both archery and firearms. Baiting and the use of dogs would not be allowed but may be considered in the future.

MDC would also require the submission of a tooth from each harvested bear within 10 days of harvest. This would help MDC staff with black bear research and management.

Hunting permits would be awarded through a random draw with a minimum of 10 percent reserved for qualifying landowners. 

MDC is asking for final public comments. The commission-proposed regulations for the hunting framework will be published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Missouri Register and open for public comments Oct. 16 through Nov. 14 at mdc.mo.gov/about-regulations/wildlife-code-missouri/proposed-regulation-changes. Comments received will then be summarized and presented for final consideration at the commission's December meeting.