Feedback solicited Oct. 16-Nov. 14 regarding MDC’s proposed bear-hunting framework for future seasons

MDC photo The Missouri Conservation Commission recently approved a framework proposed by MDC for a future black-bear-hunting season for Missouri residents, and it’s asking for public feedback on the proposed framework Oct. 16-Nov. 14.

The Missouri Conservation Commission recently approved a hunting framework proposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation for a potential future black bear season in Missouri. The commission approved the framework at its Sept. 4 open meeting in Jefferson City and is asking for final public input Oct. 16 through Nov. 14.

If the season framework is ultimately approved by the commission and a permit and harvest quota are established, the earliest a season could occur is fall 2021; it would be limited to Missouri residents.

MDC says, over the last 50 years, bears in the Missouri Ozarks have increased significantly, and today Missouri is home to 540 to 840 black bears. Missouri bear numbers are currently increasing each year by approximately 9 percent, bear range in the state is expanding and Missouri’s bear population is expected to double in fewer than 10 years.

In addition, Missouri’s bear population is connected to a larger bear population in the surrounding states of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

MDC furbearer biologist Laura Conlee said, “The timing and length of the season, restrictive methods, and permit allocation coupled with a harvest quota will initially be limited to ensure a sustainable harvest of our growing bear population.”

Conlee noted that Arkansas and Okla-homa have already established bear hunting seasons.


Hunting framework details 

Most of Missouri’s estimated 540-840 black bears are found south of the Missouri River, and primarily south of Interstate 44. With this in mind, MDC proposes to establish three Bear Management Zones (BMZ) in southern Missouri.

The proposed limited hunting season would begin each year on the third Monday in October and run for 10 days or until BMZ-specific quotas are reached, whichever comes first. Hunting hours would be a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour hour after sunset. The proposal would limit black bear hunting to Missouri residents.

Harvest quotas for each of the three BMZs would be determined annually each spring by the Conservation Commission based on MDC recommendations. Quotas have not yet been established for the potential future season.

Once the specific harvest quotas are filled for each BMZ, the season for that BMZ would be closed. Hunters would need to call in before each morning they intend to hunt to determine if the BMZ-specific quota has been reached. If harvest quotas are not reached, the season would close at the end of the 10 designated hunting days.

Hunters would be allowed to use both archery and firearms with allowable methods being the same as those for deer and elk, except the use of an atlatl. Baiting and the use of dogs would not be allowed at this time but might be considered in the future.

The harvest limit would be one bear per permit. Under the proposed regulations, bears may not be disturbed, pushed, harassed or taken from a den. Only lone black bears may be taken. Hunters may not take bears that are known to be in the presence of others bears, including female black bears with cubs.

Bear hunters must wear hunter orange, make reasonable efforts to retrieve shot bears and must use commonly edible portions.

All harvested bears would need to be telechecked by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest. Harvested bears would need to remain intact as a field-dressed carcass or quartered until the bear has been telechecked.

MDC would also require the submission of a tooth from each harvested bear within 10 days of harvest to help MDC staff with black bear research and management.


Permit process 

MDC will offer an annual online permit-application period May 1-31 each spring with a fee of $10 per applicant. Individuals must be Missouri residents and would only be allowed to apply once per year to hunt in one of the three designated BMZs.

Permit selection would be determined by July 1 each summer through a random drawing of all eligible applicants. There would be no “sit-out” period for those selected to receive permits. There would be no preference points given, such as with managed deer hunts.

Those selected would be eligible to buy a permit for $25. A person must be 11 years of age or older and have completed hunter education (or be exempt) by the time of the hunt to purchase a permit.

MDC would issue a limited number of hunting permits for each of the three BMZs. Each permit would be for a specific BMZ and could be used on public or private property within the BMZ. There would not be a separate, landowner-specific black bear hunting permit. 

Black-bear-hunting permits would be awarded through a random draw with a minimum of 10 percent reserved for qualifying landowners. To qualify for the landowner allocation, landowners would need to have at least 20 contiguous acres within the BMZ for which they are applying. Qualifying landowners must first submit their property information through MDC’s Landowner Permit Application at before completing a black bear hunting permit application.


Public comments

MDC proposed the limited and highly regulated hunting season framework for black bears following several years of public comment opportunities related to black- bear management, including black-bear informational open houses in 2019, and a public input process this spring to inform development of the proposed hunting season framework. 

Now MDC is asking for final public comments. The commission-proposed regulations for the hunting framework will be published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Missouri Register and open for public comments Oct. 16 through Nov. 14 at Comments received will then be summarized and presented for final consideration at the commission’s December meeting. If approved, the new regulations would become effective Feb. 28, 2021.


Bear background 

The black bear is one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals in Missouri, with some reaching up to 500 pounds. Black bears were historically abundant throughout the forested areas of Missouri prior to European settlement but were nearly eliminated by unregulated killing in the late 1800s, as well as from habitat loss when Ozark forests were logged. However, a small number of Missouri black bears survived and reintroduction efforts in Arkansas helped to increase bear numbers in southern Missouri.

Learn more about black bears in Missouri and MDC management efforts at

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423