By Chris Wright, The News On 6
UNDATED -- For the first time, it will be open season on black bears in Oklahoma. The state's inaugural black bear season begins Thursday, despite objections from animal activists.
Hunters will have to follow a series of rules and will be only allowed to take a total of 20 bears statewide. Still, some say no one should be taking aim at Oklahoma's black bears.
In other states, black bears are often spotted rummaging through trash or scurrying through neighborhoods. But until recently, it was a rare sight in Oklahoma. Wildlife officials say that has changed and hundreds of bears now live in the southeastern part of state.
"It's an opportunity now where the population is growing enough we can harvest a minimal amount of bears," said Colin Berg, Department of Wildlife Conservation.
That harvesting begins Thursday in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha Counties. In order to participate, hunters much purchase a special $100 license before October 1st. And once 20 bears are killed, the season is over.
"It's not going to be measurable, really anything whatsoever, by taking 20 bears out of the population," said Colin Berg.
Animal advocate Stephen Eberly disagrees, saying the state may have overestimated the black bear population and killing any is unnecessary.
"Simply co-existing with the bear is what we need to do. This is a fragile species that nearly went extinct in Oklahoma," said Stephen Eberly, animal advocate.
There is also the issue of bear-baiting. The practice, in which hunters lure bears with meat, is forbidden on public land, but will be allowed on private property.
"That is not sport, that is not hunting. It's cruelty. It's barbaric. They're allowing that in the law," said Stephen Eberly.
Regardless of objections, Oklahoma is now the 29th state to allow black bear hunting. If all goes well, the state plans to make bear season an annual affair.
Hunters will be required to check with the Department of Wildlife to make sure the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website.