PRESS RELEASE: 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, which would be open only to Missouri residents. If approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission, a season could occur as soon as the fall of 2021. MDC is asking for initial public comments through June 5.

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 currently 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 added that 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 Wednesday, May 27, at 10 a.m. Register in advance at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zh8 and 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.

Learn more about a potential black bear hunting season in Missouri online and submit comments through June 5 at mdc.mo.gov/bears.

Details on Proposed Black Bear Season

Most of Missouri’s estimated 540-840 black bears are found south of the Missouri River, and primarily south of Interstate 44. With this in mind, 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 each year 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 both 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.

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MDC is seeking public comments on a proposed hunting season for black bears in Missouri. Hunting would be limited to Missouri residents. Learn more and submit comments at mdc.mo.gov/bears.

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. A person would need to be 11 years of age 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.

Next Steps

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 then review all public input and finalize recommendations for the proposed bear-hunting season for submission to MDC’s Regulations Committee in July. Those recommendations would then move forward to the Conservation Commission for consideration in early September.

If approved, the proposed rulemakings will be published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Missouri Register and open for public comments through Nov. 15. Comments received will then be summarized and presented for final consideration at the Commission’s December meeting. If approved, the new rules would become effective March 1, 2021, for the fall hunting season.

Background on Missouri Black Bears

The black bear is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals in Missouri with some reaching up to 500 pounds. Black bears were historically abundant throughout the forested areas of Missouri prior to European settlement but were nearly eliminated by unregulated killing in the late 1800s, as well as from habitat loss when Ozark forests were logged.

However, a small number of Missouri black bears survived and reintroduction efforts in Arkansas also helped to increase their numbers in southern Missouri. Over the last 50 years, bear numbers in the Missouri Ozarks have been increasing. Today Missouri is home to between 540 – 840 black bears. Bear numbers are currently increasing each year and bear range is expanding. Learn more about black bears in Missouri and MDC management efforts at mdc.mo.gov/bears.