The framework for a Missouri bear hunting season — scheduled possibly as soon as fall of 2021 — won approval Friday from the Missouri Conservation Commission.
The proposed rules will be open for public comment from Oct. 16 through Nov. 14.
The commission is proposing a 10-day season limited to Missouri residents. The state would establish three bear management zones, all south of the Missouri River, with the number of bears to be hunted in each zone set in the spring and each hunter limited to one bear.
"Hunters would be allowed to use both archery and firearms equipment with allowable methods being the same as those for deer and elk, except the use of an atlatl," a release from the Department of Conservation stated. "Baiting and the use of dogs would not be allowed at this time but may be considered in the future."
"We've been gathering input this entire time," said Aaron Jeffries, Missouri Department of Conservation's deputy director of outreach and policy. "It will be up to the commission to set season dates at a future meeting."
During the meeting Friday, Laura Conlee, MDC's resident bear expert, gave a presentation about how Missouri's bears are doing and what a bear season framework would look like.
MDC has noted that Missouri's black bear population has been steadily growing, though most bear sightings are in the southern portion of the state, generally south of Interstate 44.
During a previous talk in Springfield, Conlee said MDC has been tracking the growth of Missouri's black bear population since 1993. In 2012, MDC estimated Missouri had 300 to 350 bears, but the newest research shows the population has grown to between 540 and 800 black bears.
Their numbers are growing about 9 percent a year, and that means there likely will be more interactions with humans. Conlee at the time noted that there has been no documented black bear attack on a human in Missouri.
Jeffries said Oklahoma and Arkansas already have bear hunting seasons.
"Folks have to realize that Missouri's bear population is part of a bigger black bear population that includes Arkansas and Oklahoma," Jeffries said. "Both have had bear hunting seasons for many years."
To comment, go to tinyurl.com/MoBearHunting.
Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune contributed to this report.