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story.lead_photo.caption Black bears are growing in number across the Missouri Ozarks. Photo by Missouri Department of Conservation

Missourians interested in hunting black bears in the state may apply this month for one of 400 permits offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The state's first black-bear hunting season will be from Oct. 18-27; the maximum total for the season will be 40 bears.

Bear hunting in Missouri is limited to Missouri residents and restricts it to three areas of southern Missouri called Bear Management Zones. Hunters must apply for a specific zone.

Permit and harvest quotas for the 2021 bear season will be:

- 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 five bears.

Each permit will be for a specific zone and may be used on public or private property within the zone. Hunters who are issued permits must call MDC before hunting each day to determine if the zone-specific harvest quota has been met.

Quota information will be updated no later than midnight on each day of the black bear hunting season. If a zone-specific harvest quota is met, the season for that zone will be closed. If harvest quotas are not reached, the season will close at the end of the 10 designated hunting days.

Apply through May 31 at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, through MDC's free MO Hunting app, through a permit vendor, or by calling 1-800-392-4115. There is a $10 non-refundable application fee. Missouri residents 11 years of age or older by the start of the bear season are eligible to apply.

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 to receive a permit must have their hunter-education certification or be exempt by age (born before Jan. 1, 1967) before they may purchase the permit at a cost of $25.

Hunting hours will be a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Hunters will be allowed to use 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 bears killed must be telechecked by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest. The bears must remain intact, as a field-dressed carcass, or quartered with evidence of sex retained, 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.

MDC officials said black bears were historically abundant throughout the forested areas of Missouri before European settlement, but were nearly eliminated by unregulated killing in the late 1800s, as well as from habitat loss when Ozark forests were logged.

Over the last 50 years, bear numbers and range in Missouri have grown to about 800 black bears with most found south of the Missouri River and primarily south of Interstate 44. But the Missouri bear range is expanding. Bear numbers in the state are increasing each year by about 9 percent and are expected to double in less than 10 years.

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