Black bear research partnership leads to potential hunt
Black bears occurred historically throughout the southcentral and southeastern United States, but due to unregulated harvest and land use change, bear abundance and distribution was markedly reduced. In Missouri, black bear abundance similarly declined and few bears were present in the state by the early 1900s. Growth from Arkansas’s restored black bear population coincided with an increase of black bear sightings in Missouri. In response to these increased sightings, we partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in 2010 to better understand black bear abundance and distribution throughout Missouri. Using a variety of scientific techniques, we estimated the number of bears statewide and determined the amount of habitat that was potentially suitable.
This research has greatly improved our understanding of black bear populations, habitat use, and ecology in Missouri. Because of the current estimated size of Missouri’s black bear population and its projected growth, the MDC has determined this population can sustain a limited and highly regulated hunting season. If a permit and harvest quota are established by Missouri’s Conservation Commission, the proposed black bear season would occur in October 2021 and represents the first regulated hunt in Missouri. Our collaborative research has provided the scientific foundation from which this harvest was based. We are thrilled to partner with organizations like MDC that provide science-based information to inform species management, including sustainable hunting opportunities for their constituents.