March 9, 2020

Oklahoma: Bill to Grant Management Authority over Furbearers and Squirrel Seasons to State Wildlife Agency Passes House

Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern State Coordinator

On Monday, March 2, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass House Bill 3496 (HB 3496). Authored by Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Members, Representative John Talley in the House and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Committee Alternate Member Senator Mark Allen in the Senate, HB 3496 removes Oklahoma’s furbearers squirrel seasons from statute and grants the authority to set season dates and lengths for these species to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Currently, Oklahoma furbearer season is statutorily set to run from December 1st to February 28th of the next year. Similarly, current statute allows hunters to harvest squirrels from May 15th to January 31st of the next year. By setting these season dates in statute, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is unable to adjust season dates when necessary to reach population management goals for these species. Since many furbearers (e.g., badger, mink, muskrat, opossum, and weasel) do not have daily or seasonal bag limits, the ability to extend or shorten the season for these species is critical to control harvest levels as populations fluctuate.

State fish and wildlife management agencies have long been recognized by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation as best-equipped to manage fish and wildlife resources at the state level. Given their understanding of the best available wildlife population and habitat research and management practices, coupled with their intimate knowledge of the conditions within their state, trained professionals should be in charge of making decisions that will impact the future of our wildlife resource, as well as our ability to sustainably pursue our hunting, fishing, and outdoor traditions. Additionally, given the tremendous funding that state fish and wildlife agencies receive from sportsmen and women through the American System of Conservation Funding, it is in the agencies’ and fish and wildlife resources’ best interest to manage these resources to provide sustainable access for hunters, anglers and trappers.

After passing out of the House of Representatives on March 2, HB 3496 is awaiting a committee assignment following its first reading in the Senate.

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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