June 8, 2020

Missouri: Department of Conservation Considers Plan for Future Black Bear Hunt and Predator Hunting Regulations

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator

Last week, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Lower Midwestern States Coordinator Kent Keene submitted a formal comment letter to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in support of their proposed plan for the state’s first resident black bear hunt. Historically present throughout Missouri, black bears were extirpated from the Show-Me State due to a combination of factors, including market hunting and habitat loss. Thanks to the natural migration of black bears from Arkansas and further restoration efforts by the Missouri Department of Conservation, there are currently an estimated 540-840 black bears in Missouri. At this level, MDC biologists believe that the population can sustain a limited harvest, thereby providing a great opportunity for Missouri’s sportsmen and women to pursue this iconic species.

Based on the current plan, a limited number of resident black bear permits will be allocated through a random lottery system in each of three designated Black Bear Management Zones. Selected hunters will be able to hunt within their designated zone season beginning on the third Monday of October. The season will remain open for ten days, or until a specific quota is filled. Hunters will be able to use legal methods for deer and elk, except the use of an atlatl will be prohibited. Additionally, bear hunters may not use dogs or bait during the black bear season, although MDC has expressed a willingness to reconsider the use of these methods after assessing the effects of the initial hunts.

Using the plan designed by the Black Bear Task Force, which includes representatives from the MDC, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the National Parks Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, combined with comments received during this initial public comment period, MDC will begin drafting formal regulations to present to the Missouri Conservation Commission. Once initial approval is granted by the Commission, another public comment will be held before the regulations are finalized.

In addition, Missouri’s sportsmen and landowners will soon have the option to weigh in on changes to feral swine and coyote hunting regulations. In response to citizen requests, MDC will soon begin accepting comments on proposed regulation changes regarding the use of artificial light, night vision, infrared, or thermal imagery equipment when hunting these species. Specifically, this change would allow landowners and their “authorized representatives” use night vision, infrared, or thermal imaging to kill feral swine on private property without requiring landowners to provide prior notification to conservation agents. Additionally, hunters would be able to use artificial light, night vision, infrared, or thermal imaging when hunting coyotes from February 1 through March 31 when used in conjunction with other legal hunting methods. Finally, the proposed change would allow any person to possess and use night vision, infrared, or thermal imaging with written authorization from a conservation agent. For more information on these proposed changes, click here. This public comment period will officially open on July 2, 2020 and extends until July 31.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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