Oklahoma Black Bear Hunt Passes!

OK Dept. of Natural Resources, Bear Hunting Magazine

A bill that would allow hunting of black bears has now passed the Oklahoma State Senate. Senate Bill 450, filed by Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, would allow hunters to get a permit to hunt black bears.

Corn said the Department of Wildlife requested a bill as a way to manage the growing black bear population in southeastern Oklahoma. A study of the population done by researchers at Oklahoma State University said there are about 700 to 800 bears in the area. The population is growing by about 12 percent each year.

The Department of Wildlife would set the requirements and seasons for bear hunting. Corn said the department has proposed limiting the number of bears killed each year to 20.

The bears live in the Ouachita Mountains that run between Oklahoma and Arkansas. Arkansas already has a bear hunting season. Corn said bears are migrating west to avoid hunters.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 37-7. Several senators raised questions about the need for the hunting season. Hunts would be limited to Le Flore, Pushmataha and McCurtain counties.

The cost of the license would be $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents to partake in the hunt. They would probably use the same system that Arkansas uses to check the daily harvest of black bears. Each morning hunters are to call an automated number to see if the quota has been reached.

The Oklahoma House voted 96-0 on Monday to send the measure to the Senate for a vote. The Senate Wildlife Committee passed a similar measure two weeks ago.

Supporters say Oklahoma's black bear population is becoming a nuisance to campers. There are an estimated 700 to 800 black bears in Oklahoma, with many entering from neighboring Arkansas.

Oklahoma wildlife officials are contemplating a season limit of 20 bears. The license fee would be $100 for residents and $500 for out-of-state residents.

A similar bill was approved by a House committee last year but was not heard in the House after researchers put the bear population at between only 300 and 500 bears.

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