MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

September 11, 2009

Bear hunting in SE will eventually make it here

Bears are here in the eastern portion of Oklahoma, and the numbers are increasing so much that Oklahoma is going to have its first-ever bear hunting season in the southeastern parts of the state in Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha Counties.

This first bear season sets a total harvest limit of 20 bears and once that number is achieved, it’s over. Hunters must daily check harvest quota either by phone or Internet to see if the quota has been filled.

The first season is limited to archery and primitive hunting weapons. Archery season is Oct. 1- 23 and Oct. 24-Nov. 1 for primitive gun hunting. Hunters must purchase a bear tag,

It’s estimated there are 700-800 bears statewide. Bears once roamed most of the U.S., but by the early 1900’s sightings were quite rare in Oklahoma. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission successfully reintroduced black bears into the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains. Arkansas’ current numbers are almost at 2,000 and the gradual migration into eastern Oklahoma is increasing those figures.

Bears certainly can become a nuisance for residents that cohabitate in these areas. Easily accessible food is an attraction as are wildlife feeders, garbage dumps and even bird feeders.

Black bears are powerful animals with few natural enemies. Despite their strength, they are remarkably tolerant of humans. Interactions between bears and humans are usually uneventful. Black bears are normally secretive animals and prefer to avoid people. Mother bears with cubs are the least tolerant if you should get between her and her cubs.

Lenny Hargis of the Cookson area of Lake Tenkiller has told me he’s spotted two black bears which have caused damage to bird feeders on his property.

Junior Barton, also from the Cookson area, told me he has at least eight different bears around his property and has pictures of them on game cameras. He said they have been within 100 yards of his back door. Having children this was a big concern for him and he contacted the wildlife agency, which has trapped one bear so far.

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