Missouri hunters may now have the opportunity they haven’t had since the early 19th century: putting bear meat on the table. This will be a huge resource for all Missourians who hunt. I marvel at how lucky we are to live in a state where scientific management methods are applied, wildlife populations thrive, and the hunter reaps the reward.
Fellow BHA’er Clay Newcomb refers to the black bear as the “North American Icon.” Through Clay and his publications in Bear Hunting Magazine, the passion for harvesting and devouring these creatures has struck a firm chord with me. Chasing the black bear in its native territory would be a glorious pursuit by any hunters’ standards. Clay’s native Arkansas shares Missouri’s southern border and a large portion of the Ozark Mountains. It is through this historic habitat that the black bear has migrated, multiplying local populations back in its native Missouri. Much of southern Missouri is covered in large swaths of public land that provide excellent solitude and habitat for the black bear.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) calculates that Missouri’s black bear population is growing at 9 percent per year with current population estimates ranging from 540-840 total bears in the Show Me State. One primary objective in the MDC’s management plan states that it will “use research to establish biological and social carrying capacities for black bear populations within Missouri and seek to maintain those numbers through regulated harvest.”
This management plan is, of course, not without its critics. Even among hunters the idea of killing a Black Bear is taboo. Folks say things like: “Didn’t we all cuddle our little teddy bears as children? And now you want to kill and eat them? I hear the meat is terrible and full of parasites. What did that bear ever do to you?” These misconceptions always bring a smile to my face as I imagine the legendary Daniel Boone rendering fat off the bears he killed in Missouri. In the early 19th century, Missouri was considered part of the American frontier; a wild collection of landscapes yet untamed by human development. Our state held thriving populations of black bear. The MDC’s report referenced this fact in the tentative management plan by quoting the early 20th century researcher, Daniel McKinley. McKinley states that, “bears were more commonly killed by pioneers and early travelers than any large mammal.” We all live in historic black bear country, and Missouri hunters should welcome them back with open (and hungry) arms. I’ll end using Clay Newcomb’s own words... “Keep the wild places wild, cause that’s where the bears live.”
MDC’s current plan for Black Bear management can be found here. There are also videos and interactive maps outlining the current locations of Black Bear sightings in Missouri. Also, please check out Clay Newcomb’s YouTube channel (links below).