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Missouri Conservation Department Moves to Open the State to Regulated Black Bear Hunting

In the waning days of 2020, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the agency established by law to conserve, control, manage, restore, and regulate of the fish, forest, and wildlife resources of the state, took the penultimate step toward approving limited black bear hunting in the state.

Based on population data which determined Missouri’s black bear population has been growing by 9 percent a year, leading to an increase in nuisance bear complaints, and additional data suggesting the state’s bear population is expected to double in less than 10 years, Missouri’s Conservation Commission approved MDC’s proposal to open portions of the state to limited black bear hunting in October 2021.

If the bear hunt does take place, it would be the first time black bears were hunted legally in the state in more than 90 years.

Hunting an ‘Essential Part of Population Management’

With Missouri’s growing bear population in an increasingly urbanized state, hunting is a critical tool to maintain bear and prey populations at sustainable levels while reducing the chance for bear/human conflicts, Laura Conlee, a furbearer biologist for MDC, told Fox News.

“A bear-hunting season in our state will provide opportunities for Missourians to participate in the sustainable harvest of this valuable wildlife species,” said Conlee. “As our black bear population continues to grow, a highly regulated hunting season will be an essential part of population management in the future.

The timing and length of the season, allowed hunting methods, and a limited permit allocation coupled with a limited harvest quota will ensure a sustainable harvest of our growing bear population,” Conlee said.

Under MDC’s proposal, the state’s bear hunt would begin on third Monday in October, ending after 10 days, or, for each of the state’s three bear management zone, until a specific quota is reached, whichever comes first. Hunter’s would be allowed to take bears using either firearms or bows. Hunting over bait or with dogs would be disallowed for the present time.

The final step before Missouri’s legal bear hunt can take place is for Conservation Commissioners to approve MDC’s suggested harvest quotas and permit limits, which the agency plans to submit to the commissioners in the spring.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.(hsburnett@heartland.org)is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve disagreed with Sterling Burnett in the past over the ecological and financial benefits of hunting, but at present killing at least nuisance bears is the only effective answer to conflicts between bears and humans. Let’s abandon this gutless use of “harvesting” as a substitute for killing. Very little of the bear is harvested for food, with few exceptions.

    Let’s also be frank–black bear hunting while necessary in some areas, for the hunters it is a sport that satisfied no need of the bear and psychological needs of the hunter. Very few hunters whom I know buy all that gear and go out in the woods thinking, “I guess I have to do this for the good of the community and the bears.” (From the bear’s point of view, of course, this is not like birth control pills. It is like “we must kill these guys to save them.”

    This is especially true of the bow hunter who almost always wound a bear before killing it, and studies suggest many bears get away suffering serious wounds. Bow hunting of bear (and hoofed game) is more like dog fighting and cock fighting than public or environmental service.

    The most honest way to describe the need for bear hunting is:

    1. We must kill them because they have become a nuisance to humans. It’s for our sake, not for the environment.

    2. We justify considerable pain and suffering by the bears because we want to avoid human discomfort and often minor disturbances. (Agricultural and home invasions are serious disturbances.)

    3. Hunters hunt largely for their own satisfactions that include the benefits of being in a natural environment, but also the thrill and pride of killing, including unnecessary killing.

    4. Harvesting is a weasel word to curry public opinion. Except for a few fish and birds, wild mammals are not sown or even cultured by humans, and in the case of bear and cougars, they are rarely eaten.

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