Jefferson City, MISSOURI—Records obtained by the Humane Society of the United States from the Missouri Department of Conservation Commission show that Missourians strongly oppose a proposed trophy hunting season on black bears. More than 2,000 comments were against the hunt, while approximately 100 were in favor.
On December 11 the Commission will vote on the bear trophy hunt proposal, which could allow up to 500 individuals to hunt Missouri’s few bears and sanction the killing of solitary cubs. Cub hunting is banned in the majority of states - making Missouri an outlier, alongside Alaska and New Jersey, in allowing this unethical practice.
Missouri’s black bear population was nearly extirpated from the state by the 1920s and the population is still not yet recovered. The MDC estimates the current population is between 540 and 840 bears, although these numbers have not been substantiated. Preliminary Missouri bear studies were funded by the Safari Club International Foundation, a sister organization to the largest trophy hunting group in the world, Safari Club International.
A study suggests that Missouri was home to about 279 black bears in 2012. Since then, no other biologists have conducted a credible scientific count of Missouri’s bear population. No one, including the MDC, knows how many black bears reside in the Show-Me State, yet the agency is proposing a trophy hunt on this unrecovered population. The MDC’s website has stated they plan to issue between 250 and 500 permits for the hunt, despite the last verified population study counting fewer than 300 bears.
Amanda Good, Missouri state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Opening a trophy hunt on our state’s rare, iconic bears to appease a few trophy hunters is ill advised and not based on the best available science. The public has clearly spoken time and again and shown their strong opposition to having Missouri’s small bear population killed so a few trophy hunters can have a bearskin rug. Black bears reproduce very slowly and are susceptible to overkill. Allowing this trophy hunt will harm their recovery. We urge the commission to do the right thing, honor the public’s wishes, and keep our bears protected.”
Good also noted that education campaigns to keep bears from garbage and agricultural products are far more effective than trophy hunting at promoting coexistence between humans and bears. The Humane Society of the United States recommends simple steps such as using bear resistant trash containers, taking down bird feeders during certain times of the year, cleaning BBQ grills, and keeping livestock feed, bees and chickens behind electric fencing to keep both bears and people safe.