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WL&T News – January 2016

Arkansas has always been known as the “bear state” but how come we rarely see or hear about bears in Arkansas? Myron Means, large carnivore program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, recently presented the results of the 2015 black bear season during an AGFC Commission meeting.

According to Means, hunters killed 393 bears during 2015. Hunters harvested 256 male bears and 137 female bears statewide. Archery hunters accounted for 77 percent of the harvest, which is typical of bear hunting in Arkansas.

“Reproduction and cub survival were normal in the Ozarks, Ouachitas, and Delta,” Means said. “However, we do have a relatively small sample size in the Delta, so that should be taken into consideration.”

Also during the Commission meeting – Chairman Emon Mahony and Director Mike Knoedl both inquired about increased bear sightings in south Arkansas and the feasibility of opening a bear season in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Means says there is a research project proposal in place to estimate the true population in that region, which will determine the validity of such a season.

“We know we have bears across that region of the state, and we try to document reports as best we can, but the reports we get come in as clusters,” Means said. “Sometimes one bear can visit multiple deer clubs, so the perception is that we have 50 bears when in reality we only have two or three. The research project should help us get the numbers on growth rates and density we need.”

Means does expect to have a bear season in the Gulf Coastal Plain one day, if the research justifies the need. He warns that it would be an extremely conservative season. “Bears harvested in that area will likely be on private land and on bait sites,” Means said. “Any time you have that scenario, you run the risk of killing too many the first year and eliminating the population in that area.”

For more information about Arkansas Black bears, see the Arkansas Game & Fish website at http://www.agfc.com/species/pages/SpeciesWildlifeDetails2.aspx?Title=Black%20Bear

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