We agree with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s decision to open a limited season on black bears this fall and only ask they they go slow for now.
Critics say MDC will allow hunters to “decimate” the state’s bear population, but we don’t think so, for several reasons:
• MDC has a demonstrated history of responsible management of game species that it has brought back from the brink.
• Most hunters are conservation-oriented, behave ethically and understand the importance of maintaining a viable black bear population, both for themselves and for nonhunters.
• Other states that have established black bear seasons have not seen a collapse of their respective populations.
Our neighbor, Arkansas, allows hundreds of bears to be harvested each year and still maintains a healthy population.
In fact, many of Missouri’s bears have moved into our state from Arkansas, looking for new territory.
Under the current rules, MDC has divided the state into three bear management zones and will issue permits and set quotas for each of those zones based on the population of animals in that region.
Zone 1 will include all of Southwest Missouri, and the limit will be 20 bears; the overall limit statewide will be 40 bears.
That’s out of a population that could be as high as 850 statewide, so less than 5% of that population if hunters are successful, and that is no certainty.
The state’s bear population is also growing at a rate of 9% annually, meaning it will double in eight years to as many as 1,700 and double again to as many as 3,400 in 16 years, if no harvest is allowed.
MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley said: “A limited annual hunting season will help manage the growing number of black bears in the state.”
Hunting has become the tool to manage wildlife populations today.
We believe the state will manage the annual fall hunt responsibly and will reevaluate should there be a concern, but for now, allowing limited hunting of black bears in Missouri seems reasonable.