I was fishing on the Alaskan shore when the upstream movement caught my attention.
A black bear performed an impeccable belly flop from an eight-foot rocky ledge into a pool of crystal-clear water to catch a salmon to feed its two cubs. Its powerful jaws ensured that the fish would not escape.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a black bear hunting season in Missouri?” I thought about. “Too bad that will never happen in my life.
Sometimes it pays to be wrong. This is one of those times. Missouri’s inaugural black bear hunting season opens Oct. 18 and will last up to 10 days if quotas are not met. Only residents of Missouri will be allowed to participate. The candidates were selected at random a few months ago in a drawing from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The approximately 800 black bears in Show-Me State reside south of the Missouri River and primarily south of Interstate 44. In 2020, bears were sighted as far north as Holt County and inhabiting approximately two-thirds of Missouri’s 114 counties.
The MDC has established three bear management areas and 400 hunters have been selected to participate in the season. The total harvest quota has been set at 40 bears. Protective measures are in place to ensure that no more than 40 bears are shot. Once a zone quota is filled, the season for that zone will end.
Hunters will only be allowed to harvest a single bear, but not in a group. The use of bait and dogs will be illegal.
In July 2019, the ministry held four open houses and received feedback from 700 people. Of that total, 87% were in favor of a highly regulated hunting season for population control while providing additional opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and create memories.
According to MDC research, the population grows by 9% each year, a percentage that can withstand a limited hunting season. Without a hunting season, the population is expected to double in just under a decade.
As expected, some of the comments were against a bear hunting season.
“My heart breaks for these wonderful, intelligent animals! Please do NOT allow such a massacre! Wrote a woman from Germany in comments to the ministry. “The hunt is barbaric, extremely brutal and evil, and those who can do it are not human in my eyes.”
The only point I totally agree with is that bears are “very intelligent animals”. I’ll give it to him. She is entitled to her opinion – and I’m glad she expressed it – and I am entitled to my opinion as well. You also. I have always enjoyed the ministry over the years, seeking input on a variety of issues. If MDC claims that the black bear population is increasing and needs to be reduced, I trust their conclusions.
Tyler Schwartze, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, agrees. The Federation carried out the research using “scientific methods to manage a self-sustaining population of black bears, focusing on research and monitoring, population management and habitat management,” Schwartze said in an Associated Press article a few months ago. The non-profit organization, representing more than 80,000 members, favors hunting.
MDC has clearly done its homework – years ago – in its first attempt to manage the black bear population. Like other big game species, this is something that must be done. Wild game is unable to manage its populations, resulting in disease, starvation and various problems.
“Being able to add this iconic species to the long list of hunting opportunities for Missourians is testament to decades of bear research and management,” according to MDC director Sara Parker Pauley. “A limited annual hunting season will help manage the growing numbers of black bears in the state.”
Echoing Pauley’s sentiments, regulated hunting is in the best interest of maintaining a healthy black bear population. It is profitable for the department and socially acceptable for hunters. Sales of permits finance conservation and their habitats. Unfortunately, a small number will still be adamantly against the hunt for a number of reasons.
Isn’t it interesting, however, that many of them aren’t averse to consuming domestic meat, like beef, pork, and chicken? At least with fair hunting, not all the wild game ends up on the kitchen table.
For more information on bear hunting in Missouri and MDC management efforts, visit mdc.mo.gov/bears.
Keith Costley lives in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and is passionate about fishing and hunting.