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Black Bear Hunting May Be Coming To Missouri In Fall 2021

Black Bear yearling sow sniffs the air for danger in Forsyth, Mo.
Missouri Department of Conservation
Black Bear yearling sow sniffs the air for danger in Forsyth, Mo.

The Missouri Conservation Commission on Friday unanimously gave initial approval to a 10-day black bear hunting season.

Black bears are native to Missouri, but overhunting and destruction of habitat led to them being driven out of the state completely by the 1930s. Reintroduction efforts that started in Arkansas in the 1960s have steadily increased their population in the Ozarks.

The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates the current black bear population in the state at between 540 and 840. Officials with the department say that meets the threshold to allow hunting to proceed.

“We had low bear numbers in the 1900s, and here we are talking about a proposed black bear hunting season framework. So this is a huge conservation success story,” said Conservation Department biologist Laura Conlee.

Opponents of the measure say the black bear population is too small and too at risk to allow hunting.

“Missouri has a distinct subpopulation of the American black bear that has not recovered,” said Amanda Good, Missouri State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The department needs to press pause.”

If given final approval later this year after a public comment period, the first opportunity to hunt bears will start on the third Monday of October 2021 and last for 10 days. The season can be shut down early if a yet-to-be-determined total number of bears are taken. Each hunter will be limited to one bear per year.

“The goal of this initial season is to provide opportunity for Missouri residents to participate in the sustainable harvest of a valuable natural resource, no different than all of the other game species we provide opportunity for,” Conlee said.

Additional concerns that came in during the public comment period suggest hunting bears was simply a “trophy hunt” and did not serve any purpose.

The Department of Conservation's proposed rules include that hunters are obligated to use the “commonly edible portions” of any bear that is taken.

Hunting advocates also commented about the dietary value of bear meat and how the lard can be used as an excellent grease.

Hunting will be allowed in three districts that make up most of central Missouri and all of the southern part of the state. In addition to overall limits, each district will have a maximum number of bears that can be hunted during the season.

Black bear hunting has been legal in Arkansas since 1980 and in Oklahoma since 2009.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the bear hunting season received final approved

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.