By Joe Jerek May
Courtesy of MDC
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is seeking initial public input on a proposed limited and highly regulated hunting season for black bears through June 5, open only to Missouri residents. If approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission, a season could be activated as soon as the fall of 2021. MDC is asking for initial public comments.
According to MDC, over the last 50 years bear numbers in the Missouri Ozarks have increased significantly and today Missouri is home to between 540 – 840 black bears. Bear numbers are increasing each year and bear range in the state is expanding.
“With Missouri’s growing black bear population, MDC is proposing the development of a limited and highly regulated bear hunting season,” said MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee. “The hunting season would provide Missouri residents with the opportunity to participate in the sustainable harvest of a valuable natural resource. 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 black bear population.”
Conlee said limited black bear hunting will be an essential part of population management in the future as Missouri’s bear numbers continue to grow.
Learn more about Missouri’s black-bear population, MDC bear research, how to “Be Bear Aware” and the potential black bear hunting season through the MDC Wild Webcast on Missouri Black Bears with Conlee on May 27, at 10 a.m. Register in advance at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zh8 then join the webcast live on May 27 at 10 a.m.
Learn more about a potential black bear hunting season in Missouri through this brief video at youtube.com/watch?v=LWy76Dt0cDs&feature=youtu.be.
Most of Missouri’s estimated 540-840 black bears are found south of the Missouri River and primarily south of Interstate 44. MDC proposes to establish three Bear Management Zones (BMZ) in southern Missouri.
MDC is proposing a limited hunting season for black bears in Missouri that would begin annually on the third Monday in October and run for 10 days or until BMZ-specific quotas are reached, whichever comes first. Hunting hours would be a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour hour after sunset. The proposal would limit black bear hunting to Missouri residents.
Harvest quotas for each of the three BMZs would be determined annually each spring by the Conservation Commission based on recommendations by MDC. Quotas have not yet been established for the future season.
Once the specific harvest quotas are filled for each BMZ, the season for that BMZ would be closed. Hunters would need to call in each morning they intend to hunt to determine if the BMZ-specific quota has been reached. If harvest quotas are not reached, the season would close at the end of the 10 designated hunting days.
Hunters would be allowed to use archery and firearms equipment with allowable methods being the same as those for deer and elk, except the use of an atlatl. Baiting and the use of dogs would not be allowed at this time, but may be considered in the future.
MDC proposes to offer an annual online permit-application period each spring with a fee of $10 per applicant. Individuals must be Missouri residents and would only be allowed to apply once per year to hunt in one of the three designated BMZs. Permit selection would be determined each summer through a random drawing of all eligible applicants. There would be no “sit-out” period for those selected to receive permits. There would be no preference points given, such as with managed deer hunts.
To ensure resident landowners within a BMZ have an opportunity to participate in the hunt, MDC would propose that a minimum of 10 percent of BMZ-specific black bear hunting permits are awarded to qualifying landowners. To be eligible, landowners would have to have submitted their Landowner Permit Application, would need to meet the same eligibility requirements for deer and turkey landowner permits, and would need have at least 20 contiguous acres within the BMZ for which they are applying.
MDC would issue a limited number of hunting permits for each of the three BMZs. Each permit would be for a specific BMZ and could be used on public or private property within the BMZ.
Those selected would be eligible to buy a permit at a cost of $25. and must be 11 or older and have completed hunter education (or be exempt) by the time of the hunt to purchase a permit.
The harvest limit would be one bear per permit. Bears eligible for harvest would be limited to single bears only. Hunters would not be allowed to disturb, pursue or harvest any bear that has taken refuge in a den.
All harvested bears would need to be telechecked by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest. Harvested bears would need to remain intact as a field-dressed carcass or quartered until the bear has been telechecked. 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.
MDC will collect initial public comments through June 5. Online comments can be submitted at mdc.mo.gov/bears. Written comments can be mailed to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Attention Michele Baumer, PO Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102.
MDC will review all public input and finalize recommendations for the proposed bear-hunting season for submission to MDC’s Regulations Committee in July then move them forward to the Conservation Commission for consideration in early September.
The approved proposed rule-makings will be published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Missouri Register and open for public comments through Nov. 15. Comments received will be summarized and presented for final consideration at the Commission’s December meeting. Approved new rules would become effective March 1, 2021, for the fall hunting season. Learn more about bears at mdc.mo.gov/bears.