Contact: Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it Matters: Conservation success stories, particularly those that result in increased opportunities for sportsmen and women, should always be cause for celebration. The successful restoration of Missouri’s black bear population through natural immigration from Arkansas and Oklahoma is one such example. Thanks to research and management efforts led by the Missouri Department of Conservation and their partners, several Missouri hunters participated in an experience that they are not soon to forget.
From October 18 through October 27, 400 lucky hunters had the opportunity to participate in the Show-Me State’s first black bear hunting season. During the ten-day season, 12 bears were harvested, falling short of the zone-specific harvest quotas established by the Missouri Conservation Commission (Commission) and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in each bear management zone. This unique opportunity highlights a true conservation success story that Missourians, and conservationists around the country, should celebrate.
Historically, Missouri was home to black bear, as well as a host of other game species. However, the familiar tale of land use changes and market hunting resulted in the extirpation of the species from the Show-Me State in the early 20th century. Following successful restoration efforts in nearby Arkansas and Oklahoma, two states that have been successfully holding black bear hunting seasons for decades between them, black bears began to naturally immigrate back into the Ozarks of Southern Missouri. Currently estimated to number between 600 and 1,000, the Missouri Conservation Commission determined that the bear population had met the threshold at which a regulated hunting season would be initiated.
As the Commission went through the regulatory process necessary to initiate this hunting season, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) testified several times in support of the opportunity. CSF’s support highlighted the research conducted by Missouri Department of Conservation biologists to evaluate the growth of the state’s black bear population. Following the success of last year’s inaugural elk hunting season, MDC and the Commission have once again demonstrated their ability to successfully restore and manage the state’s public trust fish and wildlife resources while providing incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women.
Congratulations to all hunters who were able to participate in this amazing opportunity! For more information on Missouri’s growing black bear population, visit the Department of Conservation’s website.
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?