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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.- The Missouri Department of Conservation Commission approved a plan for the state’s first black bear hunting season framework.

The framework limits any future bear hunting to areas of southern Missouri. It also restricts bear hunting to Missouri residents only.

The Commission finalized the hunting season framework and made it public earlier today in Jefferson City.

The framework establishes three Bear Management Zones (BMZ). There will be a limited number of permits issued for each of the three zones. The permit will be for a specific zone.

The next step is for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to present recommendations to the Commission next spring for a potential initial permit quota and harvest quota.

If quotas are set, Missouri residents will be able to apply during May 2021 for an October 2021 fall hunt.

The season will begin on the third Monday in October and run 10 days or until the quotas are reached in each BMZ.

If an annual harvest quota is approved, MDC will offer an online bear-hunting permit-application period in May with a fee of $10 per applicant. Each applicant will be allowed to apply to hunt in only one of the three designated BMZs.

Over the last 50 years, bear numbers in Missouri have increased significantly and today the state is home to between 540 – 840 black bears.

MDC research shows that Missouri bear numbers are increasing each year by about 9%. At that rate, the state’s black bear population is expected to double in less than 10 years.

Missouri’s bear population is also connected to a larger bear population in the surrounding states of Arkansas and Oklahoma where there is a bear-hunting season.