MISSOURI – Hunters harvested 12 black bears during Missouri’s third bear-hunting season, matching a record from the inaugural hunt in 2021.

Missouri’s second season began Oct. 16 and ended Wednesday. This year’s total increased from eight black bears harvested last year. Hunters harvested three male and nine female bears, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bear hunting in Missouri is limited to state residents and restricted to three designated bear management zones in southern Missouri. Nearly 6,000 hunters applied for 400 permits in the spring, and hunters were selected through a random drawing.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reports the state’s black bear population has rebounded throughout the last several decades after it was once believed to be nearly extinct in the mid-1900s. MDC says Missouri’s population has been growing around 9 percent each year for a consistent period of time, almost doubling in size from a decade ago. It’s believed around 800 black bears inhabit Missouri in the present day.

Officials say the relatively new hunts are intended for conservation and population management purposes.

“We had another successful black bear hunting season this year and saw bears harvested in four new counties where bears had not been previously harvested,” said MDC Bear Biologist Nate Bowersock. “Conditions this season couldn’t have been much better for hunters, and we look forward to hearing from hunters about their experiences through our annual post-season survey.”

Since the bear hunts began, Missouri has allowed a maximum harvest of 40 bears per season.