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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Conservation has officially announced its first modern black bear hunting season with a date targeting later this year, 2021.

Missouri residents will now be able to apply for a bear hunting permit this coming May, according to a news release from the MDC. The season will run Oct. 18-27 in three designated Bear Management Zones in the southern part of the state.

The black bear population in Missouri is growing. Conservation officials estimate that between 600 and 1,000 bears currently live within state borders, many of them south of I-70. Just five years ago, that number was more like 300.

“As our black bear population continues to grow, a highly regulated hunting season will be an essential part of population management into the future,” MDC Bear Biologist Laura Conlee said in the statement. “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.”

The MDC has designated three zones for hunting that break up the entire southern part of the state and are defined by various natural borders and highways. They are as follows:

Picture of Bear Management Zones
Picture of Bear Management Zones from the MDC
  • BMZ 1: Southwest Missouri.
    • South boundary – Arkansas state line;
    • West boundary – Kansas state line;
    • North boundary – I-44/Hwy 60;
    • East boundary – Hwy 63
  • BMZ 2: Southeast Missouri.
    • South boundary – state line;
    • West boundary – Hwy 63/I-44/Hwy 47;
    • North boundary – Missouri River;
    • East Boundary – Mississippi River
  • BMZ 3: Western and Central Missouri.
    • South boundary – I-44/Hwy 60;
    • West boundary – Kansas state line;
    • North boundary – Missouri River;
    • East boundary – Hwy 63/I-44/Hwy 47

The MDC has also finalized the permit quota and harvest quota for each zone. Permits will be randomly selected from the applicant pool. Once the harvest quota is reached for that zone, the season ends.

  • BMZ 1: Permit quota of 200 issued with a harvest quota of 20 bears.
  • BMZ 2: Permit quota of 150 issued with a harvest quota of 15 bears.
  • BMZ 3: Permit quota of 50 issued with a harvest quota of 5 bears.

But not everyone is in support of the state’s new hunting decision.

Wendy Keefover with the Humane Society of the United States criticized the decision, saying her organization believes it has low support.

“Missourians love black bears. They absolutely love them,” she said. “We did a poll in March 2019, and we found that only 30% of Missourians support a black bear trophy hunt.”

She’s concerned that hunters will go over quota.

“Four-hundred hunters on 40 bears in 10 days, that’s a huge concern,” Keefover said.