JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announces the state’s first black-bear hunting season is slated for this coming fall, Oct. 18–27.
The Missouri Conservation Commission gave final approval of MDC’s season framework, permit and harvest quotas, and other related regulations for hunting black bears in Missouri at its March 26 open meeting. The approved regulations limit bear hunting to Missouri residents and restrict bear hunting to designated areas of southern Missouri. Missouri residents will be able to apply during May for the Oct. 18-27 hunt with permit selection by July 1 through a random drawing of applicants.
Missouri’s estimated 800 (600 – 1000) black bears are found south of the Missouri River, and primarily south of Interstate 44. MDC has established three Bear Management Zones (BMZ) in southern Missouri and will issue annual permit numbers and harvest quotas for each of the three BMZs. Each permit will be for a specific BMZ and may be used on public or private property within the BMZ.
Permit and harvest quotas for the upcoming Oct. 18-27 bear season will be:
The limited hunting season will be restricted to Missouri residents and will begin each year on the third Monday in October and run for 10 days or until BMZ-specific quotas are reached. Once the specific harvest quotas are filled for each BMZ, the season for that BMZ will be closed.
“Being able to add this iconic species to the long list of hunting opportunities for Missourians is a testament to the decades of bear research and management by MDC staff,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “A limited annual hunting season will help manage the growing number of black bears in the state.”
MDC proposed a limited and highly regulated black-bear hunting season following several years of public comment, including informational open houses in 2019 and a public-input process in the spring and fall of 2020.
“A bear-hunting season in our state will provide opportunities for Missourians to participate in the sustainable harvest of this valuable wildlife species,” said MDC Bear Biologist Laura Conlee. “As our black bear population continues to grow, a highly regulated hunting season will be an essential part of population management into the future. The timing and length of the season, allowed hunting methods, and a limited permit allocation coupled with a limited harvest quota will ensure a sustainable harvest of our growing bear population.”
Hunting hours will be a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Hunters will 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. Baiting and the use of dogs will not be allowed.
The harvest limit will be one bear per permit. 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. Bears may not be disturbed, pushed, harassed, or taken from a den. Bear hunters must wear hunter orange, make reasonable efforts to retrieve shot bears, and may not leave or abandon commonly edible portions.
All harvested bears must be telechecked by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest. Harvested bears must remain intact as a field-dressed carcass or quartered until the bear has been telechecked.
MDC will also require the submission of a tooth from each harvested bear within 10 days of harvest. This will help MDC staff with black bear research and management.
Hunters who are issued permits must call MDC each day before they intend to hunt to determine if the BMZ-specific quota has been reached. If harvest quotas are not reached, the season will close at the end of the 10 designated hunting days.
MDC will offer an online bear-hunting permit-application period May 1-31 with a fee of $10 per applicant. Individuals must be Missouri residents and will be allowed to apply to hunt in one of the three designated BMZs. Apply May 1 - 31 online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, through MDC's free MO Hunting app, through a permit vendor, or by calling 1-800-392-4115.
Permit selection will be determined by July 1 through a random drawing of all eligible applicants. There will be no “sit-out” period for those selected to receive permits. Applicants can check to see if they have been selected for a permit at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits by logging into “Manage Your Account” and selecting “View My Special Hunt History.”
Those selected will then be eligible to buy a permit at a cost of $25. Selected hunters 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 is not issuing landowner-specific black bear hunting permits, however, a minimum of 10 percent of zone-specific resident black bear permits will be allocated to qualifying landowners. Zone-specific permits can be used anywhere in the specified zone on public or private property (with landowner permission). To qualify, landowners must 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 mdc.mo.gov/landownerpermits before completing a black bear permit application.
Learn more about bear hunting in Missouri at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/bear.
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.
Over the last 50 years, bear numbers and range in Missouri have grown. MDC research shows that Missouri is now home to around 800 (range 600 – 1000) black bears with most found south of the Missouri River and primarily south of Interstate 44. Missouri bear range is expanding, and bear numbers are increasing each year by approximately 9% and are expected to double in less than 10 years.
Additionally, Missouri’s bear population is connected to a larger bear population in the surrounding states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, both of which have established bear-hunting seasons.
MDC’s 2020-2030 Black Bear Management Plan will guide bear management in Missouri for the next decade. Learn more about black bears in Missouri and MDC management efforts at mdc.mo.gov/bears.