Jun 15, 2020 12:00 AM

Critics slam plan for first black bear hunt in Missouri

Posted Jun 15, 2020 12:00 AM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposal to allow the first black bear hunt in modern Missouri history is drawing strong interest, particularly from opponents.

The Missouri Department of Conservation asked for public response to a plan for a limited black bear hunt next year as a way to manage a bear population that is growing and expanding its range. The department said between 540 and 840 black bears live in Missouri, mostly south of the Missouri River.

The state Conservation Commission must ultimately approve the proposal.

The comment period, which ended June 5, drew more than 3,300 responses. As of June 2, more than 67% of the respondents opposed the idea, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Some opponents object to hunting generally, while others didn't like some details of the plan, such as imposing a quota or holding the bear hunt during deer hunting season.

More than 1,000 survey respondents supported plans for the bear hunt. And the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a nonprofit organization that represents 100 groups with more than 80,000 affiliated members, favors the hunt.

“We agree that it’s crucial to use science-based methods to manage a self-sustaining population of black bears, focusing on research and monitoring, population management, and habitat management,” said Tyler Schwartze, the group’s executive director.

Only Missouri residents would be allowed to hunt the bears, and hunters would be limited to one bear. Because most bears live south of the Missouri River, conservation officials would create three “Bear Management Zones.”

The hunt would start the third Monday of October 2021, last no longer than 10 days and end if hunters reached their quota before then. Quotas would be established for each zone in the spring before the hunt.

Baiting and use of dogs wouldn’t be allowed, and at least 10% of permits designated for each zone would go to qualified landowners. An application for a permit would cost $10, with those who won licenses from a random drawing paying $25 for the permit.

Laura Conlee, chief furbearer biologist for the Department of Conservation, said hunters would be allowed to kill any bear that is by itself, but not bears in groups — such as a sow with cubs nearby.

Comments opposing the bear hunt came from across Missouri but also from other states and even Germany.

"My heart breaks for these wonderful highly intelligent animals! I kindly ask you to NOT allow such a massacre!” wrote Vera Kebsch-Müller of Germany. “Hunting is barbaric, extremely brutal and perverse and those who are able to do it are no humans in my eyes.”