Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Oklahoma to launch bear hunt this week

Oklahoma City (AP) – Oklahoma is to open a hunt for bear on
Thursday in four counties in the southeastern part of the
state.

The hunt will be conducted in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and
Pushmataha counties. The archery and muzzle-loader hunt will
continue until a quota of 20 bears has been reached.

Hunters with permits are obligated to check with the state’s
Department of Wildlife Conservation through its Web site or by
phone each day before going out to ensure the quota has not yet
been met.

The Oklahoma Legislature during its last session approved a
measure to make the hunt legal. Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill
into law in April.

Residents in the counties where the hunt is to take place have
complained that there are too many bears and that they’ve become a
nuisance. Bears have reportedly gotten into trash and otherwise
bothered people.

A study by Oklahoma State University biologists estimates at
least 500 black bears are in Oklahoma.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Micah Holmes, a Department
of Wildlife Conservation spokesman. “It’s a big deal for us. There
has been a lot of interest in it, and it has been a long time
coming.”

A license costs $100 for in-state hunters; it’s $500 for
nonresidents. The proceeds from the license will go to the agency,
which is funded primarily by user fees, Holmes said.

The law forbids hunters from using dogs to chase bears up into
trees. Hunters can set out bait if they are on private property,
but bears cannot be baited on public land, Holmes said.

Since 1991, the Wildlife Conservation agency has received about
500 calls of bears being a nuisance, Holmes said, about half of
which were investigated. In the past four years, seven bears died
after being hit by vehicles, Holmes said.

Biologists hope that a hunting season will help them learn more
about southeastern Oklahoma’s bear population.

When a bear is killed, a biologist will meet the hunter, help
the hunter remove the animal from the woods, and then take a tooth
from the animal to determine its age and a hair sample for DNA
analysis, Holmes said.

The bears in the mountainous region of southeastern Oklahoma are
part of a group that was reintroduced into the Ozark and Ouachita
mountains in Arkansas in the late 1950s and 1960s. The bears were
from Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada, Holmes said.

Archery season for deer also opens Thursday in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma will become the 29th state to allow bear hunting when
the season opens later this week.

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