ST. LOUIS, Mo. – There was a lot of interest in Missouri’s first black bear hunting season.
The wild population has grown enough over the past decade to allow for it. Over 6,000 hunters applied for 400 permits. They only harvested 12 bears of the 40 maximum allowed this year.
The Missouri Department of Conservation took a conservative approach to the new season. They limited it to ten days, restricted permits to a lottery, plus prohibited bait and dogs.
“Our highly regulated and limited season included a sustainable maximum harvest of 40 bears, which is about 5% of our total bear population,” states Missouri Department of Conservation State Furbearer and Black Bear Biologist Laura Conlee.
The state also set up three zones to make sure that bears were not overharvested in any area. Each Zone had a different limit on the number of bears allowed to be taken. The bear population is larger along the border with Arkansas and the limit was higher there.
“This was an incredibly successful first bear hunting season for Missouri given that we have a highly regulated season, that bears in the state are widely distributed throughout some pretty rugged wilderness, and that many hunters had never hunted bears before,” states Conlee.
Nine bears were harvested from Zone 1 in southwest Missouri and three were taken from Zone 3 in western parts of the state. Hunters did not kill any bears in Zone 2, located in southeastern Missouri from the Ozark National Scenic Riverway to St. Louis.
Black bears were abundant in Missouri forests before European settlement. The animal is even on the state’s flag. They were nearly eliminated because of unregulated killing in the late 19th century and habitat loss in the Ozarks.