Majority of public comments oppose Missouri Dept. of Conservation's black bear hunt proposal
The Missouri Department of Conservation says it is almost time to allow a controlled hunt of black bears in the state.
"Our bear population is at a level where it can sustain that harvest, and again, we're looking at proposing a very limited and highly regulated season," said Laura Conlee, Chief Furbearer Biologist with the MDC.
The MDC proposed a 10-day hunting season, starting on the third Monday in October, only for Missouri Residents. The hunts, under this plan, would happen in three "Bear Management Zones" in Southern Missouri.
There would also be a quota on how many bears could be harvested in each zone.
The conservation department spent the last few weeks gathering the public's opinion on that proposal until last Friday.
"We did get comments from outside of Missouri, I think we're looking at about 27 states including Missouri, several different countries. We collect all of that input," Conlee said.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a woman from Germany opposes the black bear hunt. “My heart breaks for these wonderful highly intelligent animals! I kindly ask you to NOT allow such a massacre," said Vera Kebsch-Müller.
“I beg you from the bottom of my heart to please prevent any bear hunts in your beautiful state,” said Katherine Hall of Elizabethton, Tennessee.
The MDC thinks there are between 540 to 840 bears in the state, mostly south of the Missouri River and Interstate 44.
"We do have a growing and expanding bear population, and we do have bears showing up in other parts of the state where they haven't been for decades," Conlee said.
Conlee added having a controlled hunt is important to regulate that population.
"We're looking at providing an opportunity to Missourians to participate in the sustainable harvest of a really valuable natural resource," Conlee said.
The MDC says it will take all of the input and make changes to the proposed bear hunt rules, before it goes to the Conservation Commission for review in September.
A final vote isn't expected until December.
If approved, the first black bear hunt would happen in October 2021.